Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cinema Tennessee

Posted By on Thu, Sep 24, 2009 at 12:15 PM

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The Robert Mitchum cult classic Thunder Road found its way to my television this morning and started a brain thread about other films set in Tennessee: Is there a common denominator? Do our mountains, valleys and plains work as appropriate settings for metaphors regarding the greater human condition? Verdict: Not really! Nashville - A-duh. Full of hot '70s eye candy like Ned Beatty and Shelley Duvall (never mind), Robert Altman's sprawling story of music/politics/fame ends with a scene at the Parthenon. If the movie were made today, the climax would probably be at the Batman Building. Think about that and sigh. Death Proof - The second half of this mediocre Tarantino film takes place in the rough-and-tumble hellscape that is...Lebanon, Tenn.? Whatever you say, dude! Actually, Tarantino was born in Knoxville and rather graciously gives his home state a few shout-outs on occasion. Pulp Fiction's Butch was on the run to Tennessee to escape cap-poppin' gangsters, and I was privy to a theater full of frat-boy cheering when Inglourious Basterd Aldo Raine brags that he's from Maynardville, Tenn., which is also the birthplace of Roy Acuff. The more you know! Sergeant York - Super-duper Gary Cooper stars in this 1941 biopic about WWI hero and backwoods sharpshooter Alvin York. Because of those state history classes during my elementary schools days, I am pretty familiar with York, but had no plans ever to see the film until I read this little gem on Wikipedia: "In the movie, York became a Christian after he was struck by lightning while riding his mule." Ha! Sold! That scene should be in every biopic ever. It would have made Walk the Line actually deserving of its praise. Something starring Johnny Knoxville - I'm assuming. Black Snake Moan - The one and only time I saw this film I was out of the country with a bunch of smug English friends, who thought it was hi-fucking-larious that this misogynist piece of heavy-handed crap took place where I was from. Hours of drunken ribbing ensued. Christina Ricci, Samuel L. Jackson and Justin Timberlake remain unforgiven. Evil Dead - Hells yes. Bruce Campbell, America's Imaginary Boyfriend, destroys the shit out of some demons that are inexplicably called to the mountains of East Tennessee. If Forks, Wash., can cash in on Twilight, I don't see why some delightfully creepy mountain hamlet can't claim to be the Evil Dead setting and get their grubby moonshine mitts on some of that sweet, sweet nerd money. 'Cause the nerds will pay. Trust me. Clearly violence and mountains are de rigueur when deciding to set a movie in this verdant state we call home--and with a few notable exceptions, the trashier, the better. We are wild, barely reconstructed, and apparently home to Sumerian texts just littering the place. The list is a short one, and I'm sure I'm leaving out your favorite. Please leave a comment explaining why I'm an idiot because obviously The Client is the best movie ever. (RIP Renfro.)

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