4 Films for 4th of July

That firecracker of a holiday, Independence Day, is nearly upon us. And what better way to celebrate the 4th of July then by watching a few great films. That is of course, if you can take time away from blowing your limbs off with illegally imported explosives. Tinseltown is as American as apple pie — the very same pie that Jason Biggs had his way with in “American Pie.” Thanks, Hollywood.

In honor of America splitting from those nasty British folk, I’ve put together a list of some great Hollywood films that are either celebrating the holiday, or reminding us of our country’s past. So queue up your Netflix, or wander down to the nearest Blockbuster — should your neighborhood still have one — and enjoy the show.  And try for Blu-Ray whenever possible.  DVDs are so last decade.

1 – Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

doodleOne of the finest musicals to come out of Warner Bros. Pictures, “Yankee Doodle Dandy” stars the great James Cagney as the real-life George M. Cohan. A master class, Cohan dazzled audiences with his musical compositions and skillful singing, dancing and acting. Cagney took home the Academy Award in 1943 for Best Actor in a Leading role, beating out another fine actor, Gary Cooper (“The Pride of the Yankees”). “Yankee Doodle Dandy” picked up two other Oscars that night, although it lost Best Picture to “Mrs. Miniver.” Lovers of film and stage can appreciate the life of Cohan, and Cagney’s portrayal of the song and dance man will make you forget of his usual roles as a vicious mobster (“The Public Enemy” and “Angels with Dirty Faces”). This is a must see anytime of the year, but especially on the 4th of July.

2 – The Last of the Mohicans (1992)

mohicans“My Left Foot” might still be Daniel Day-Lewis’ greatest performance, but nearly three years after that film came out, he exploded on the Hollywood scene in “The Last of the Mohicans.” As Hawkeye, an American raised by Native Americans — or Indians as us anti-PC folk would say — Day-Lewis balances savage brutality with love and lust. Director and screenwriter Michael Mann wasn’t the first to tackle James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, as versions were made in the ’20s, ’30s and beyond, yet this version is the most vivid portrayal of America at that time. Aside from this being a fantastic film, it’s good to remind yourself how our great country was founded — by slaughtering the Indian population.

3 – Born on the Fourth of July (1989)

bornOliver Stone. Do you need another excuse to see “Born on the Fourth of July”? If you’re reading this blog, I’m assuming you’re not much of a right winger, so it should be safe to assume Stone doesn’t rub you the wrong way. He is a film master, and as both director and screenwriter on this film, he tells the life story of Ron Kovic, a Vietnam war vet paralyzed and stuck in a wheel chair. Stone is a Vietnam vet himself, so the horrors he portrays, in this film as well as “Platoon,” come from personal experience. A pre-loony bin Tom Cruise headlines the movie, and is quite believable as a conflicted veteran that turns into an anti-war activist. Stone won the Oscar for Best Direction, while “Driving Miss Daisy” beat it out for Best Picture. “Born on the Fourth of July” should get you in the patriotic mood, and ready to join the current anti-war movement. I’ll be there, right along side you.

4 – This is America, Charlie Brown (1988)

charlieI’m cheating a bit by including “This is America, Charlie Brown,” as it was an eight-episode CBS miniseries, so it doesn’t exactly qualify as a film. But, no holiday is complete without a little Charlie Brown. You’ve got “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “Be My Valentine Charlie Brown,” “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” and “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown.” There is no getting around that the Peanuts gang are American icons. In “This is America,” the kids learn about major events in this country’s history. Add this collection to “Schoolhouse Rock!” and you’ve got a fine collection of animated Americana.

Worst Patriotic Movie Ever

pearlSince this list points out four must-see 4th of July films, I thought it best to end things on a negative note. The worst patriotic movie ever produced… “Pearl Harbor.” Everything wrong with Hollywood came together for this film, making it a craptastic perfect storm. Cheese ball director Michael Bay ruined the war film genre this with clunker, starring the equally horrible Ben Affleck. Seriously, beyond the Kevin Smith films, what has Affleck done that is worth sitting through?


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