I never thought I would say this, but thank God for rain. After enduring a summer with constant temperatures in the 90's and a drought that turned my grass into dust, this winter has been quite refreshing. Despite the gloomy, overcast skies, I am glad to drag wet leaves in the house with my shoes. I am glad to have the constant dirt stripe on the bottom of my car doors. I am glad that my dogs smell especially ripe these days. I swear, we would have had more rain if Lou Holtz stood on top of the Downtown Atlanta Westin and sang "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia."
I am also glad that I don't stick to my car seat anymore. I advise each and every one of you to forgo black leather interior. It is NOT a perk. However, if you enjoy third degree burns on your hands and an awesome sweat outline on your back and legs, then by all means, get it. You better come up with a good story to explain your appearance, though. I usually go with the trusty "my AC is out" because "I was my feeding my chickens" doesn't work if you live inMarietta.
This weather is also good for watching movies. Nothing makes me happier than taking in a good movie on a gloomy day (ok, that's a lie. Pistachio ice cream, 99 cent Wendy's Double Stack burgers on my "cheat" day, the Marshall Tucker Band and free wi-fi make me happier) Anyhow, I was thinking, as I watched "Necessary Roughness" the other day, what are the BEST movies about the South? As I perused film history, I discount all movies that paint the South in a totally negative light. I know we have a jaded past and it should not be forgotten, however, I think some in the media just love to twist the knife too much. We are aware of our past and many of us (young and old, white and black) make a concerted effort to make it exactly that.....the past. Reopening old wounds at our expense to sell tickets and issues of magazines and newspapers will make you no friends in Cassville, Georgia, nor anywhere else down here.
When I concocted this list, I took into account three factors: 1) accuracy; 2) entertainment value; and 3) the storyline. When you think about it, there are hundreds of movies about us. The South has a mystique that seems to tantalize the rest of the nation. (I used “mystique”and “tantalize” in the same sentence. Sounds like names for X-Rated female American Gladiator contestants.) Maybe it's the live oaks and Spanish moss. Maybe it's our devotion to our music, football, food and our front porches. The South is an attitude, a lifestyle that cannot be emulated by any other region. I think the national media is fascinated by this uniqueness. It reverberates down to the smallest dirt road in the smallest town and no two places are the same. From Kentucky to Florida, from Carolina to Texas, we all share a common bond that other regions can only read about, and few understand.
When I think of the South, I think of so many things. It's a personal thing for me, as it seems to be with most Southerners. The dogwood outside my window, the wind blowing the sweet smell into my room. The midnight train blowing mournfully in the distance. Cass Grocery. My parents dancing to "Can't You See" in the living room. My brother and I pulling up wild onions and building forts. Mama Kim's lemonade. Neen telling me to "watch for Johnny No Shoulders" in the woods and wishing I didn't carry my gun every time. Meemaw's biscuits. Duane Allman. Ronnie Van Zant. Toy and Tommy Caldwell. Singing "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" every Sunday as the benediction. North Campus in Athens, Georgia. Sunset on the Frederica River at St. Simon's Island. People, places and things that cannot be recreated by any form of media. What the media does recreate are generalities that somewhat touch on our roots, our lives and our attitude. Honestly, many of them do a great job of it.
However, I do have one complaint. What happened to Southern actors? James Van Der Beek saying "I don't want your life" in Varsity Blues was the low point. He is from Connecticut. I own Varsity Blues simply for Billy Bob's lines (who is from Acworth, Georgia). It's a travesty throughout. Ali Larter, Scott Caan and Paul Walker bumble through their lines, forcing an accent that makes me more uncomfortable than Hank Williams, Jr at the Democratic National Convention. So, here is my list of the 5 absolute best movies about the South, in no particular order:
1) Smokey and the Bandit: Bootlegging and Burt Reynolds. Jerry Reed. Buford T. Justice. Moronic Georgia State Troopers. Need I say more? The best line ever: "Mr. Trans Ammmmm, what's yo pleasure?" I could watch this movie every day and not get tired of it. Plus, it was filmed inGeorgiain its entirety as far as I know. Just don't bother watching it on TV, because if I hear Jackie Gleason say "scumbum" once more, I'll gouge my eyes out. A comedy with no undertones, just a good time and a shout out to carefree living, fast cars, beer and trucker talk.
2) Coal Miner's Daughter: The main actors were all Southern born and bred. Sissy Spacek won an Oscar. Tommy Lee Jones should have. Levon Helm (the drummer for The Band) was excellent. A great biopic into post World War II Southern living, it does not justify anything, it only tells a story of how a girl from Nowhere, Kentucky overcame life obstacles to become one of the best and most famous country musicians in history. Her inspiration: her Daddy and her hard drinking, hard living former bootlegger husband. There are so many good lines in this movie but the most poignant was this: "When you born in the mountains, you got three choices: coal mine, moonshine or move it on down the line."
3) Mississippi Burning: One of my favorite Gene Hackman movies. It shows the terrible nature of racism in the 60's but also shows that all Southerners were not evil, nor were they a part of the madness. R. Lee Ermey played the mayor of the town, who ended up hanging himself, although he was not part of any murder or a member of the Klan. He did it out of guilt for indifference. It also points out another obvious event: R. Lee Ermey dies in just about every movie he plays in. I thought it was far better than Ghosts of Mississippi, because I cannot take Alec Baldwin seriously as a Southerner. Further, Bobby DeLaughter was recently locked up in federal prison for lying to the FBI.
4) Days of Thunder: Granted, very few of the main actors are Southerners. It's a little hokey and over the top. However, Robert Duvall makes up for all of this and then some. His portrayal of Harry Hogg is money. It also gives a glimpse into NASCAR, which rarely happens at all. "Handsome" Harry Gant makes a cameo. Hardee's is the sponsor of a car, when does that happen anymore? And who can forget that immortal line..."now Cole....tars (tires) is what wins a race." Classic Southern humor with a little wedge taken out (sorry, couldn't resist)
5) Deliverance: All jokes aside, this is one of the greatest movies ever made. Burt is in this one too. Burt is to Southern acting what Robert DeNiro is to mob movies. The man just knows his damn role. This movie is about man fighting nature (Burt and friends vs. the river), nature fighting man (the entire area is being wiped away for a manmade lake), and man fighting man (Burt and friends vs. mountain men). Basically, it's one big fight with a rape, three murders and a chilling scene where James Dickey (the author of the book) plays the town sheriff who tells Jon Voight..."don't ever do anything like this again, and don't come back up here. I'd like to see this town die peaceful." (as the entire town cemetery is being disinterred in anticipation of the lake).
Honorable Mentions: Fried Green Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias, O Brother Where Art Thou, Forrest Gump, A Time to Kill (these are almost interchangeable with the previous 5, depending on my mood)
That's my list and I'm sticking to it. You may disagree or think of one that I totally forgot, but that's the beauty of it. There are so many to choose from. Just remember 1) accuracy (so, The Blind Side is out, as are most football movies); 2) Entertainment Value (goodbye Gone With the Wind, bored me to death) and 3) the storyline (Smokey and the Bandit 2. I'd rather be covered in bees than watch it again).