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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

#56: The Mt. Rushmore Series

Because film depictions of notable figures from history are often too reverential, movies of this ilk frequently disappoint me. The inauthenticity of musical biopics annoy me. It feels weird to like, or even worse, to enjoy a film about a despicable historical figure. Consequently, this iteration of my Mt. Rushmore series was harder to assemble than many that preceded it. Please chime in with four of your favorites, alphabetically, as my mountain is constructed, or otherwise.

1.) Iron Lady: I never warmed to Margaret Thatcher; she never returned my phone calls. But Meryl Streep, arguably the best and most versatile actor of her generation, helped me transcend my visceral dislike for Thatcher. I can't recall that ever happening before or since.

2.) The Last Station: One ironclad criterion for my monument was having trouble imagining another actor playing the role even if wasn't the first portrayal. Christopher Plummer and Leo Tolstoy are now inseparable in my mind's eye. The always reliable Helen Mirren plays the Countess.

3.) Lincoln: In a collaborative medium like film, it's difficult to know how much credit is owed to the source material, the director, the actor. Doris Kearns Goodwin's brilliant book Team of Rivals and/or Steven Spielberg's direction clearly contributed to the career-defining performance Daniel Day Lewis delivered in this movie. All the same, Lewis is towering; Henry Fonda et al have now faded, for me.

4.) When Nietzsche Wept: This little-seen film is not for everyone - it's talky and can be dramatically inert. But Armand Assante doesn't portray Nietzsche so much as he inhabits him. I'm still not sure how his performance was overlooked by his peers.

I'm acutely aware how white my mountain is, kind of like the actual Mt. Rushmore, etc. Still, I stand by my choices and look forward to hearing yours.

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