Monday, November 5, 2012

Tony's Top Twenty Movies - #6

I have decided to join in the discussion of "the top movies of all time" with my own top twenty movie list. I've based my list on my love of specific movies, and  the role they've played  in my life's journey. The movies span over eight decades. I call them "signposts."

I have previously posted my #1 through #5 signposts, here is my #6 signpost.

#6 – Scarecrow – 1973

The practice of going by myself, to a matinee showing of a movie that I knew nothing about began in 1973 with the movie Scarecrow. While on the road as a musician, just to kill time, I entered  the old Union Theater around noon in downtown Union, New Jersey with no expectations of what I was about to see. Maybe there were three or four other people there for the matinee, nevertheless, I had the feeling that I was about to take this movie discovery journey absolutely all alone.

Scarecrow turned out to be magical experience.  It’s a road movie starring Al Pacino as Francis, and Gene Hackman as Max.  They play hard luck down and out drifters, that meet while hitchhiking on a country road and partner up to pursue getting their piece of the American dream. But first, Pacino wants to meet the child he has never seen that he fathered five years ago in Detroit, before he ran off to join the Navy.   Hackman, who has spent the last six years in the joint for assault and battery, has planned every detail down to the last penny on how to open up his “Maxi’s Car Wash” in Pittsburg. With Pacino as his new found partner, all that is left is to make the cross country trip from California, via Colorado to see Hackman’s sister, to Detroit, and finally to the pot of gold waiting in Pittsburg.

Pacino has an innocent light heartedness and uses humor to soften tough moments,  Hackman is an untrusting loner who claims not to love anything and wants to fight his way out of every situation. Pacino says he is like a scarecrow, the kind a farmer puts up to protect his crops by making the birds laugh. The idea is that the birds, out of gratitude to the farmer for making them laugh, decide not to bother his crops.  Pacino likes to make people laugh and tries to teach Hackman to be less angry and become more like him, a scarecrow. There is a turning point in their relationship, during one of the greatest strip scenes ever filmed in a real local bar, when their roles become reversed. Later in their journey, Pacino falls completely apart and Hackman gives up his dream of the car wash and uses all of his resources to try and care for his ailing friend.

I have learned that the road can be very cruel,  and Scarecrow is no exception to that rule. The dreams of the down trodden with their joys and sorrows, and the hardships of the painful moments of being human, play themselves out in Scarecrow.  Honest dialogue and moving performances with humor and pathos, make the transformation of the Pacino and Hackman characters not only believable but emotionally unforgettable. Scarecrow is an example of the realism, and the fall from innocence, that is portrayed in the independent films of the 1970’s.   What can I say, I found myself in that empty theater, truly becoming a child of the 70’s.

Coming next: #7 Kramer vs. Kramer - 1979