Tag Archives: Oklahoma

Top Ten: Americana Films

Wikipedia defines “Americana” as “artifacts related to the history, geography, folklore, and cultural heritage of the United States,” with “patriotism and nostalgia playing a defining role in the subject.” Since we’re coming up on the American Independence Day this week, I thought it would be a good time to look at some movies that celebrate American history and culture. My instant reaction on hearing the term Americana is to think of sentimental, somewhat simplistic and possibly jingoistic stories or art that glorify a past and a culture that doesn’t necessarily deserve it, so I was glad to see that I really do love the top ten films labeled Americana on my Flickchart.

Flickchart is a movie ranking website that pits two random films against each other and asks you to choose which one is better, meanwhile building a list of your favorite films. I rank according to what I like the best, prioritizing personal preferences and emotional connections, so my Flickchart is in no way meant to be objective.

10 – Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

To me, Meet Me in St. Louis is practically the definition of Americana. It’s certainly got the nostalgia part of it down pat, with its look at turn-of-the-century St. Louis and the hosting of the World’s Fair. It’s chock-full of little details, like an ice wagon going on its rounds, difficult calls on an early model telephone, old-fashioned Halloween rituals, trolley rides, and reminders of simpler times where the biggest worry was that the boy next door won’t like you. To be fair, the main conflict of the possibility of having to move for the father’s job is still relevant. There’s a sentimentality to the film, for sure, but the more serious issues and the weirdness of some of Tootie’s subplots keep it from being totally schmaltzy.

9 – The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

From John Steinbeck’s classic Dust Bowl novel, John Ford’s film takes the story of Okies traveling west to seek a brighter future in California and makes it resonate on both the level of the individual family and the whole generation. This could be a very depressing film, and I put off watching it for quite a while because of that (and because I feared it would be kind of boring), but I was pleasantly surprised by how watchable it is. It certainly has some gut-punching moments, but thanks to a crime subplot, moody cinematography from Gregg Toland, and charismatic performances, it remains engrossing and ultimately inspirational in the good way.

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50DMC #3: Movie Seen Most Often

The 50 Day Movie Challenge asks one question every day, to be answered by a few paragraphs and a clip, if possible. Click here for the full list of questions.

Today’s prompt: What movie have you seen most often?

I was about to say the movie I’ve seen most often would likely be Rear Window, which I already used as my favorite, but it’s actually far more likely to be Oklahoma! Yes, the exclamation point is part of the title. These Oklahomans are serious about their state. Anyway, there was a time in my life, probably around ages 11-13 or so, when I watched Oklahoma! over and over and over. I had my dad hook up an audio tape recorder to the VCR so I could record the whole movie on tapes and listen to them when I couldn’t watch the movie, like in the car. Obsessive? Why, yes. Yes, I was.

I could recite the entire movie for memory at one point, and I was so into it, I had a couple of my friends doing it to. Apparently I was more of a leader as a child than I ever thought I was. I still have most of the songs memorized, and the dialogue comes back pretty quickly if I have a bit of a push. I have absolutely no idea how many total times I’ve seen the movie, but it has to measure well into double-digits, and if you include how many times I listened to those audio rips? Dozens. It’s been a while, though. Might be time to dust it off again. Or I could just go through it in my head. :)

The clip I would use is Ado Annie singing “I Cain’t Say No,” since she’s my favorite part of the movie (and my first introduction to Gloria Grahame, who’s now one of my favorite actresses), but the only high-quality clip of it on YouTube isn’t embeddable. Click on the image to go watch it on YouTube.

The Great St Louis to Los Angeles Road Trip

In pictures, music, tweets (reposts from Twitter, which I’ve marked as such), and text.

Day One: St. Louis to Amarillo

Or, technically, my parents’ house west of St. Louis to Amarillo. I initially thought about trying to follow Route 66 for some of this trip, but when I started trying to map it through Missouri (using Historic 66.com) it got really complicated and basically just followed I-44 on the service roads anyway, so I figured to heck with it. Plus I tend to get frustrated on non-interstate roads very quickly on trips, so it was pretty much a stupid idea anyway.

Tweet: California or bust!
Tweet: Music recommendation: Babyshambles’ newest release Shotters Nation. Finally picked it up Saturday [yay Vintage Vinyl!] and it’s awesome.

Here are a couple of tracks off that album. I like the way lead Pete Doherty is bringing in some jazz influences, especially in “There She Goes.”

Babyshambles – Carry On Up the Morning
Babyshambles – There She Goes

There’s not a lot of love lost between me and Missouri (besides St. Louis, which I do love), but the stretch of I-44 going through the Ozarks can be quite lovely. Too bad it was a little cloudy when I was going through, but I really like the rolling hills and rock cuts.

I-44 in Central Missouri

Tweet: I’ve lived in Missouri for 25 years and am now moving away having never been to Branson. Huh.
Tweet: Billboard I just passed was advertising ‘Titanic: A Family Experience.’ Because drowning is always good times.
Tweet: My iPod is picking awesome songs. I guess having playlists FULL OF AWESOME helps.

Of Montreal – Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse

Tweet: Oklahoma! Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain…

Oklahoma!

This is advertised to be the World’s Largest McDonalds, stretching across I-44 just west of Vinita, Oklahoma, but I don’t think that’s actually true. Unless, perhaps, you count all the non-McDonalds parts of the building, like the souvenir shop and the ice cream booth. Still, it’s cool to stop at and watch the cars go under you while you eat, but I didn’t stop this time.

World's Largest McDonalds?

Last chance to continue down I-35 through Dallas to Waco instead of taking I-40 toward California! It was tempting to find an excuse to go down and hang out with my friends again, but then I’d just have to say goodbye again, too, and that would suck.

Last Chance for Waco!

Tweet: Bob Dylan is good stuff. Why did I not know this before?

I never really listened to Dylan until I saw I’m Not There a couple of weeks ago, but as soon as I saw the film, I was inspired to seek out more music, and I quite like it. Different than most of the stuff I listen to, but then a lot of the stuff I listen to wouldn’t exist without Dylan’s innovations.

Bob Dylan – Mr. Tambourine Man
Bob Dylan – Ballad of a Thin Man

Tweet: Hills and cruise control are an annoyingly poor combination. [So are headwinds and cruise control, as I found going through the deserts later]
Tweet: They aren’t kidding when they talk about the wind blowing down the plains in Oklahoma.
Tweet: Apparently I’m not the first to notice how windy OK is; passing the first wind farm of the trip.

Oklahoma Windmill Farm

Aw, Oklahoma’s trying to do mesas. How cute!

Oklahoma Mesas

Tweet: Done with Oklahoma. Seems like I was in there forever.
Tweet: My ears just popped! This is the most gradual hill ever, but I’m definitely gaining altitude.

Getting into Texas made me happy, even if it is just the panhandle. This landscape agrees with me a lot more than Oklahoma’s, for some reason.

Texas Valley

Then there was this gorgeous sunset.

Texas sunset
Texas Sunset
Texas sunset

And then there was Amarillo.

Click through for Days Two (New Mexico and Arizona) and Three (California).

Continue reading The Great St Louis to Los Angeles Road Trip