30-Day Film Challenge: Your Favorite Drama

Day 17
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Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid (1969) by Shawn Bourdo

We're headed into a run of genre specific film choices. It's always a bit difficult because the best films seem to defy genre definitions. Or certainly they crossover between multiple genres. Is Frankenstein a horror picture or a thoughtful drama? It's a bit of both depending on your mood when watching. And it'd be easy to take the obvious route and choose Shawshank Redemption or Citizen Kane because they are so widely regarded. And those films might rank higher on my overall enjoyment list, but I'm particularly fond of the dramatic parts of the 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

The Western genre is prime for telling a good dramatic story. It's unlikely to veer off into such fanciful elements that would make it science fiction or horror (excluding the upcoming Cowbys and Aliens, I guess). The characters are typically broad enough to be recognizable and yet there are a number of storylines that can be told that speak to manhood and freedom. This film succeeded practically by ignoring that it was a Western. The score and incidental music like "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" feel current. The story of the two historical figures becomes more a drama about friendship. There's action and comedy but it's heart is really the story of male friendship. The symbolic freedom of the West is a great backdrop for this story.

I don't know if a drama should make you cry or be sad. This movie doesn't do those things and yet I feel like there is an important and serious story that is told through the film. It's the rare film that celebrates friendship without having to resort to melodramatic plots. And it's a favorite drama of mine.

The Last of the Mohicans (1992) by Amanda Salazar

Since I began loving great film, ones that tell amazing stories I have always loved The Last of the Mohicans. It has everything that a great drama should, from a historically fictionalized foundation to great acting, beautiful landscapes, and one of the most powerful scores in any film. Now these combined do not always create a great drama but here they have mixed the parts perfectly and created a powerful and lasting film.

Taking place during the French and Indian war, the film follows three native Indians (one adopted) as they maneuver between the war going on in the colonies between the French, British, and locals. The film is primarily shot in outdoor locations, with lush backgrounds and beautiful costume work because of the time period. Daniel Day Lewis plays the adopted Indian, Hawkeye (Nathaniel), and he is a dream when it comes to great actors. In fact, it was a bit of a toss-up when I had to pick a movie with my favorite actor in one of our previous posts. Hawkeye is the hero that struggles with saving British prisoners or his family and land.

To me, this is a timeless drama that exaggerates history to make a great story. From throat slitting, heart extractions, and live human burning, this film makes for the best kind of drama: one that makes you think, feel, and ultimately enjoy. 

Bicycle Thieves (1948) by Dusty Somers

I suppose most of my favorite films would fit broadly under the "drama" heading (pretty much the catchall for any serious, non-genre picture), so this category doesn't narrow it down much for me. But thinking about great dramatic films -- those that really earn the title -- it's the masterpieces of Italian Neorealism that stand out. Unsentimental and naturalistic, they find drama in ordinary human circumstances, often with nonprofessional actors and on-location sets.

One of the greatest of the movement is Vittorio De Sica's heartrending, beautifully observed Bicycle Thieves. It's one of the first foreign films I fell in love with, and it sent me down all sorts of paths to great art cinema. The film's tale of the devastation of postwar Italy and the difficulty of finding work is rooted in reality, making the struggle of Antonio (Lamberto Maggiorani) more than just manufactured drama. Here, all it takes is for a bicycle to be stolen to cause the whole world to come crashing down.

Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) by El Bicho

Not gonna lie. Got way too many choices. When I first jotted down my titles for the entire month, Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors was my pick, but then that felt like a bit of a cheat since half of it is comedy. Considered Sidney Lumet's Network, the scathing satire by Paddy Chayefsky, but then thought the drama should be more universal, which ruled out Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet. With jobs being not only hard to get but hard to keep nowadays, James Foley's adaptation of David Mamet's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Glengarry Glen Ross seemed the perfect choice.

A foursome of real estate salesmen, played by Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Jack Lemmon, and Al Pacino, have been given an ultimatum, issued by Blake (Alec Baldwin in one of the best scenes of all time): only the top two in sales for the month keep their jobs. This pushes the men to desperate measures, from aggressive/illegal sales techniques to robbing the office for the new leads.

Glengarry Glen Ross is about men keeping score and surviving. Tense and riveting yet it's just people talking, chararcters whose range of emotions is brought to life by the way the actors talk and move. So simple and so brilliant. Captivates me every time.

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