Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Five Favorite Civil Rights Movies

So, this is in honor of MLK day and of everyone, really, who has ever fought to make their voice heard. I was actually sorely disappointed to realize how greatly this genre is lacking. Yes, there are some greats, but there are - in my opinion - too few greats. To come up with my five for this category was extremely difficult. For one, I was actually pretty quickly able to think of the movies that make up spots 1, 2 and 5. But all of those deal with African American civil rights - which with MLK day being this month, it surely should have been highlighted. But, I wanted a movie for both gay and woman's rights as well. Funny enough - gay was easier than women. Do you know that until my friend suggested I quickly watch the film that is now in my number 2 spot, the only movie I could really think of was Mary Poppins and the song Sister Suffragette? I love Mary Poppins - but that couldn't be my civil rights movie! Still - I think I finally came up with a solid Top Five. Yet - where are the movies about the other peoples that this country has marginalized over the years? Blockbusters usually concern foreign places and ancient cries. Highly fictionalized non-fiction characters crying for 'FREEDOM!'. I'd rather hear some real voices.

Okay - sorry. Here I go for real.

1. The 60's Movie

Okay - so I barely remember this movie. I just remember that I was incredibly obsessed with Julia Stiles (this is around the time that 10 Things I Hate about You came out, and I wanted to read a lot of Hemingway and go to Sarah Lawrence). But I also remember being truly moved by this two part mini-series that chronicled the lives of two American families in the 60s. I think I even had the movie poster on my wall.
"Don't you ever forget what you seen here."

2. Mississippi Burning

Again, (and I'm sorry) a movie I saw way too long ago to remember anything except for the impression it had on me. Which - is actually saying enough about how fantastic it really was, for the impression to remain long after everything else has faded. Yeah. yeah. I'm making excuses.

"Down here, things are different; here, they believe that some things are worth killing for. "

3. Milk

And yet another that I'm shaky on the details but relish the memory of. The problem is - with the exception of the last two movies, these are all movies that I really, really liked, but they don't rank among my favorites of all time. Anyway - back to Milk, I thought Sean Penn put in a really moving and amazing performance. As did that crazy James Franco. And it's a really important topic today, in the way of all the Prop H8te, etc.

"All men are created equal. No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words."

4. Iron Jawed Angels

I only just watched this movie for the first time last week. And I plan on watching another three or four times before I return it to Netflix. Probably going to make Matt watch it this weekend as well. Amazing movie that was sadly produced and released by HBO. I only say sadly because, this movie was of the sort of caliber and importance of a award-winning Hollywood blockbuster. But who wants to back a movie about a woman's issues with an all female cast? And okay, maybe I sound bitter. But you watch this movie. Then try and think of any other movie that deals with this topic. Or, try and think of another movie from this time period whose secondary female characters are suffragists, as would be historically accurate. None. I can't think of any.

Anyway, this was an absolutely fantastic and beautiful piece of work. Hilary Swank is freaking amazing.

"I won't give anything away 'til we have it all. I can't. "

5. Malcolm X

I've read the autobiography and several works concerning this amazing, conflicted and righteous man. I think what draws me to Malcolm X's civil rights work more than any other leader was his ability to make mistakes and then admit them. His ability to change his views when he realizes he is wrong and to do it with grace and conviction. Spike Lee's movie and Denzel Washington's portrayal of Malcolm X was emotional and right on point.

"Being born here does not make you an American. I am not an American, you are not an American. You are one of the 22 million black people who are the *victims* of America."

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