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7 Great Survival Stories

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This has been a banner year for stories of survival, including the excellent film “All Is Lost,” starring Robert Redford. These tales, whether in movies or the printed word, bring us to the brink of what it means to be human. Are we reckless? Resilient? Reflective? Yes to all three. In any case, here are seven terrific stories of trying to survive. No spoilers here, but I will point out that some of the protagonists live and some of them die. What they have in common is that all of them put up a fight.

GRAVITY

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A dazzling, seat-of-the-pants adventure, “Gravity” has grabbed tons of attention – and deservedly so. The special effects are stunning, the central performance by Sandra Bullock is perfect and there’s not one wasted moment in the film. Like many survival yarns, it offers something beyond the notion of trying to stay alive. In this case, Bullock’s plucky astronaut is grieving the loss of her daughter as she tries to dodge shards of floating space debris.

TO BUILD A FIRE

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This classic short story by Jack London was published in 1908, and it is as riveting now as it must have been back then. With no frills and an almost clinical attention to detail, it is the story of a man who sets out with his dog near the Yukon Trail on a day much too cold for safe travel. The temperatures are 75 degrees below zero, and dropping. Every decision, good and bad, has immediate consequences, which gives the story a chilling clarity.

CAST AWAY

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Here we have survival as transformation – a common theme in this List. Tom Hanks is his usual, charismatic self as a guy stranded on a desert island. He endures only to the extent that his knowledge and will allow him – but is that enough? Why does survival matter? What is the point of existence? If only there was a bloody soccer ball around to tell us.

127 HOURS

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Based on a true story, “127 Hours” stars James Franco as a fun-loving adventurer whose hand becomes wedged between immovable rocks during a solo climbing trip. The inner journey takes center stage, as this man takes stock of his young life and considers what he is willing to do to stay alive.

LEININGEN VERSUS THE ANTS

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To some extent, hubris is the subtext of many of these stories. That’s certainly the case with the short story, “Leiningen Versus the Ants,” written by Carl Stephenson and published in 1938. Leiningen is a swaggering plantation owner in Brazil, who decides to stand his ground against a miles-long army of hungry ants. His true enemy, one he valiantly combats, is panic. If the plot sounds familiar, it may be because the story was made into a 1954 movie, “The Naked Jungle,” starring Charlton Heston.

BURIED

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Unlikely premise, but an interesting movie. Ryan Reynolds plays a man buried alive in a coffin, trying to get out. He’s got his cell phone, so it should be no problem – except that he doesn’t know where he is. Gulp.

ALL IS LOST

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I can’t say enough about the extraordinary work Redford does in “All is Lost.” All alone on a sailboat on the Indian Ocean, Redford lets his iconic face do the talking as a freaky accident sets in motion a brutal chain of events. The movie is heartbreaking and inspiring, without caving in to unnecessary sentiment.

I limited myself here to singular survival tales. Any good ones I left out?

Horror Movies – If They Were Set in Washington, D.C.

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In honor of Halloween, The Jimbo List has compiled a monster mash-up of two terrifying things: horror movies and government. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

INVASION OF THE BUDGET SNATCHERS

PLAN 9 FROM OBAMACARE

EVIL DEADLOCK

CREATURE FROM THE PAC LAGOON

HOUSE OF WHACKS

TEA PARTY OF TERROR

BRIDE OF FRANKEN

THE ENMITYVILLE HORROR

COULTERGEIST

SMARMY OF DARKNESS

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (TO READ YOUR EMAIL & LISTEN TO YOUR PHONE CALLS)

SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE DAMNED

CRUZILLA

FRIDAY THE 13TH FILIBUSTER

PHANTOM OF THE OP-ED

This is why C-SPAN is so frightening. Happy Halloween.

If The Government Shutdown Continues Much Longer …

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You won’t believe all the crazy stuff that will happen if the government shutdown goes on for an extended period of time. For instance…

DR. OZ BECOMES THE NEXT U.S. SURGEON GENERAL

THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL GOES SHIRTLESS

AIR FORCE ONE WILL CHARGE EXTRA FOR CARRY-ONS

SCHOOL KIDS WILL HAVE TO TAKE THEIR CLASS TRIP TO WASHINGTON TERRACE, UTAH

IT’LL BE SALVATION ARMY VS. OLD NAVY PLAYING FOOTBALL ON NATIONAL TV

THE SMOOT-HAWLEY ACT WILL HAVE TO LET HAWLEY GO

THE ONLY “OLD FAITHFUL” PEOPLE WILL BE ABLE TO WATCH SPEWING REGULARLY WILL BE PAT ROBERTSON

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CALLS WILL GO DIRECTLY TO BILL NYE THE SCIENCE GUY

THE NEW NATIONAL CURRENCY? GROUPONS

NORTH AND SOUTH DAKOTA WILL BE PUT IN ESCROW

EXTRAS ON “THE WALKING DEAD” WILL BE WEARING U.S. POSTAL SERVICE OUTFITS

NASA WILL BE REPLACED BY A KID IN FLORIDA WITH A BOX OF BOTTLE ROCKETS

Who knew?

7 Movies with Obsessed NFL Fans

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Here we are at the first Sunday of the NFL season, and the excitement is running pretty high. It’s a beautiful thing. As we await the festivities, take a look at these films featuring characters who take their pro football VERY seriously.

DINER (1982)

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Great, great movie with an amazing cast, including Mickey Rourke, Kevin Bacon, Daniel Stern, Tim Daly, Ellen Barkin and Paul Reiser. It’s set in Baltimore, where one of the characters, Eddie (played by Steve Guttenberg) makes his girlfriend take a written quiz on the Baltimore Colts before he’ll marry her! I love how seriously everyone takes it, even though they understand on some level that it’s nuts.

BIG FAN (2009)

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Patton Oswalt dives into the crazy end of the pool as “Paul from Staten Island,” who loves his New York Giants and makes frequent calls to a sports radio station. Things do not go well for Paul when he encounters his favorite player making a drug deal. The movie doesn’t flinch in dealing with obsession and delusional behavior – but it also gets the intensity of sports fandom right.

SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012)

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For me, the Solatano clan in “Silver Linings Playbook” is the gold standard for NFL fans in movies. These folks live and die with their beloved Philadelphia Eagles. Robert DeNiro’s dad character is essentially a walking set of Sunday superstitions, which any NFL fan completely understands. One of my favorite scenes in this movie involves Jennifer Lawrence setting DeNiro straight on both his Eagles knowledge and the nature of jinxes. Crabby snacks and homemades for everyone!

JERRY MAGUIRE (1996)

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One of the underrated things about this much-quoted movie is Regina King’s performance as the wife of an NFL player (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). She follows every play as if her husband’s life depended on it, which it does.

PAPER LION (1968)

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Alan Alda (that’s right) plays a writer for Sports Illustrated who attempts to understand the game from a new perspective by posing as a quarterback for the Detroit Lions. What’s truly wild about this is that it’s based on the true story of George Plimpton’s famous book, also called “Paper Lion.” Real NFL player Alex Karras, who later became a successful actor, plays himself here.

BUFFALO 66 (1998)

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This one is most definitely not for everybody. Vincent Gallo’s gritty film is about a guy who gets out of prison, kidnaps a woman and forces her to pretend to be his wife during a visit to see his parents. How does the NFL factor into it? Well, Gallo’s horrifying parents (Angelica Huston and Ben Gazzara) are huge Buffalo Bills fans. They even named their son Billy, after the team, and have a picture of O.J. Simpson among the family photos. As if that weren’t enough, the plot involves Billy’s desire for revenge against a Bills kicker who missed a crucial field goal in the playoffs.

A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983)

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A personal favorite, because it accurately reveals the love-hate relationship you can have with your team. Darren McGavin plays a rough-around-the-edges Dad in northern Indiana in about 1940, dealing with the usual car problems, home repairs and odd neighbors. There’s a classic scene where the mom character knows exactly how to break up some possible tension at the family dinner table: mention that the Chicago Bears are playing the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. It immediately sends McGavin into a sarcastic meditation on his “Monsters of the Midway.”

That’s all for now, sports fans. Are you ready for some football?

 

Ben Affleck as Batman? 7 Things to Look For

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Social media is buzzing with the news that Ben Affleck has been cast as the new Batman in an upcoming movie featuring the Caped Crusader and Superman. The staff at The Jimbo List simply cannot wait to see how this plays out. Here are some things to look for:

THE NEW BAT SIGNAL IS A RED SOX LOGO

ALAN ARKIN AND JOHN GOODMAN WILL BE CAST AS COMMISSIONER GORDON AND CHIEF O’HARA

ACTING CONFUSED AS BRUCE WAYNE? NO PROBLEM

THE JOKER WILL TORTURE HIM BY MAKING HIM WATCH ‘GIGLI’

HE KEEPS ASKING THE PEOPLE OF GOTHAM CITY IF HE LOOKS TOUGHER THAN CLOONEY

UTILITY BELT WILL INCLUDE COMPARTMENTS FOR HIS OSCARS

DEMANDS THAT MATT DAMON CALL HIM ‘THE BATMAN’ EVEN AT HOME

This could be good.

Air Conditioner Settings I’d Like To See

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As you may have heard, there’s a bit of a heat wave going on in the Northeast this week. It follows a monster heat wave a couple of weeks ago out West. One thing that’s become clear is we need more aggressive settings on our air conditioners to handle such extreme weather. Here are some suggestions:

BRAIN FREEZE

MEAT LOCKER

WASP FAMILY DINNER

POLAR PLUNGE

FIRST DAY OF SLED DOG PRACTICE

SIBERIAN SUNRISE

FROZEN CAVEMAN LAWYER

ICE QUEEN

THANKSGIVING WITH THE SPITZERS

IGLOO

I feel cooler already.

Son of Sharknado

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Not sick of “Sharknado” yet? Good, because SyFy announced it will be repeating the hilariously lowbrow movie again next Thursday. In the meantime, here are some suggestions for new material:

ARACHNALANCHE

THUNDERATS

WORMQUAKE

PIRANHACANE

TICKTWISTER

GATORWAVE

PYTHONAMI

ALPACALYPSE

God, that felt good.

Sharknado Nation

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Now that we’ve experienced the phenomenon that is “Sharknado,” there’s no stopping the toothy creatures from taking over Hollywood. Here’s what a full-scale shark attack at the local cinema would look like.

SHARKS ON A PLANE

RAGING SHARK

RAIDERS OF THE LOST SHARK

SHARK OF STEEL

THE GREAT SHARKSBY

THE SHARKSHANK REDEMPTION

HONEY, I SHRANK THE SHARK

STAR TREK INTO SHARKNESS

IT’S A WONDERFUL SHARK

TRAINSHARKING

ZERO SHARK THIRTY

SOME LIKE IT SHARK

SHARKDOG MILLIONAIRE

MR. SHARK GOES TO WASHINGTON

GOSFORD SHARK

12 ANGRY SHARKS

THE SHARK WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE

BRAVESHARK

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN SHARK

JURASSIC SHARK

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Independence Day Top 40

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Happy Independence Day, everyone. Here’s a List of Top 40 songs as envisioned by the folks who brought us the Declaration of Independence.

GEN. WASHINGTON’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND

LIGHT MY FIREWORKS

IT’S MY TEA PARTY

STRAIGHT OUTTA CONCORD

VALLEY FORGE GURLS

STAND BY YOUR MINUTEMAN

CALL ME A DESPOT MAYBE

RED, WHITE AND BLUE SUEDE SHOES

WILL THE REAL BEN FRANKLIN PLEASE STAND UP?

MAMMAS DON’T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE REDCOATS

SMELLS LIKE TEEN SPIRIT OF 76

Rock on, America.

Old Folks in Road Movies

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There’s a built-in poignancy about road movies involving codgers. Either they’re retracing footsteps of an embattled past, or they’re journeying into unknown territory in defiance of age and expectation. Either way, it can be engrossing to watch.

JACK NICHOLSON IN “ABOUT SCHMIDT”

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In “About Schmidt,” Jack Nicholson hits the road as a deeply ordinary man forced to question pretty much everything about how he’s lived his life. There are some very funny moments in RVs and a hot tub, but the overriding sense of sadness is strong. “About Schmidt” also boasts one of the most unusual choices for an ending that I’ve ever seen.

JANE DARWELL IN “THE GRAPES OF WRATH”

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It’s all there in her wonderful face: pain, fear, disappointment, resolve. Based on John Steinbeck’s great novel of Okies fleeing the dustbowl during the Depression, Darwell’s performance is rooted in a tragic, almost mystical view of travel as survival. She isn’t on the road seeking redemption or guidance. She wants to find a place for her family to live.

ALAN ARKIN IN “LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE”

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How great is this movie? Mr. Arkin’s work, in particular, is excellent. He takes a stock character, the cranky old guy, and knows exactly when to play him loud and when to play him soft. Road movies are always about the interior transformations and emotional movements, and “Little Miss Sunshine” wisely uses Arkin as a major catalyst.

ART CARNEY IN “HARRY AND TONTO”

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Art Carney won an Oscar as Harry, a philosophical widower tossed out of his New York City apartment. He roams the country with his cat, Tonto. Although this film has a few too many contrivances, it’s also undeniably moving. It makes a firm argument that loss and change can be accompanied by new experiences and new friendships.

JAMES EARL JONES IN “FIELD OF DREAMS”

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The great James Earl Jones isn’t the star of “Field of Dreams,” but his presence enlivens it immeasurably. His road from sarcastic skepticism to ardent belief in Kevin Costner’s quest is what gives the movie some zip at exactly the right moment.

GERALDINE PAGE IN “TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL”

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Page is heartbreaking in “Trip to Bountiful.” She plays an older woman, living with her shrill daughter-in-law and henpecked son, who wants to see her childhood home one last time. So she sneaks away and takes the bus. It’s such a quiet, winning performance; Page won a well-deserved Oscar for it.

RICHARD FARNSWORTH IN “THE STRAIGHT STORY”

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I’ll readily admit that I’d have been willing to plunk down full price to see and hear Richard Farnsworth recite the ingredients in soup. His manner had the simplicity and beauty of deep, still water. In “The Straight Story,” he plays a man who sets out on a riding lawnmower to visit his estranged brother, who lives in another state. It’s both boring and riveting, if that makes any sense.

And now, the Jimbo List is going to take a two-week break. Safe travels to one and all.