Well, I have never heard and let’s be real…won’t ever hear those five famous words, “The Academy Award goes to (ME) …”! But I do love movies. Truth is that I am a real movie buff. Vickie and I love to go to a movie as often as possible; you could call us cheapskates….I wouldn’t be offended, as we usually go to the early show on Saturday morning. When the snow and ice is on and hunting is over…well, it is a great way to spend a morning with the one you love (makes it easier to ask her to come along in her kayak just a month or two later when things warm up).
While I won’t ever receive an Oscar…it doesn’t mean that I can’t give out my own. So, for just a few minutes let’s take a walk down memory lane and check out my five most favorite outdoor movies. Probably you’ve seen all of these, doesn’t mean you can’t go dig one out and have nice night re-visiting an old favorite? However…if you haven’t seen any of my ‘top-picks’ then please find a copy, settle in with a nice bowl of soup…and give then a go.
I will start with my #5 – Jeremiah Johnson. One of the true classics shot way back in 1972. Robert Redford takes on this tough role and knocks it out of the park as a mountain man who is escaping the Mexican-American war. The scenery in the movie is exceptional in its own right; the plot thickens as Johnson comes across Bear Claw (Will Geer-Grandpa Walton) who is willing to teach the ‘green-horn’ all the necessary skills to keep him alive in the big mountains of the west. My favorite scene is when old Bear Claw asks Johnson if he is good at skinning things…then proceeds to run him a grizzly bear into the cabin to check on his abilities. In the end Jeremiah makes enemies out of the Crow Indians and has to fend them off one by one to stay alive. It is without question a movie worth your time (1h 56m)…hope you will check it out.
Up at #4 is one for the animal lovers… Where the Red Fern Grows. Be advised that you may need a tissue or two for the ending of this great film that was made back in 1974. Based in the Ozarks of Oklahoma the movie follows a young boy, Billy, played by Stewart Peterson, as he saves up enough money to buy him a pair of coon hounds. It is a classic not only for the scenery and many hunting scenes but more for the rich story line that comes about when Billy has to make some tough decisions in regards to his pair of Redbones. I have a hard time with choosing just one scene-but I can so relate to the many training portions of the film whereby Billy is diligently working at turning this pair of pups into champion coon dogs. Specifically there is a scene that has his mama washing floors…she unknowingly drags a coon skin across the floor and in just a few minutes has a room full of pups and kids, all sloshing around in a spilled bucket of mop water. If you can watch this flick and not get teary eyed…you might want to check your pulse!
Just last week, as the snow and temps were falling…Vickie and sat back and watched my #3 all-time outdoor movie – Legends Of The Fall. Made back in 1994, this classic is exceptional due to the amazing Montana scenery and when combined with a powerful storyline…it’s a big hit in my book. I have often said that if I could go back to another time and place-it would have been Montana at the end of the 19th century. Legends is full of big stars with Brad Pitt (Tristan) and one of the all-time greats, Anthony Hopkins as Col. William Ludlow. The story is really about family; brothers who at times fight each other…ultimately wind up, alongside their father in a power struggle to keep their way of Montana life alive. This is one of those very rich films that will have you in awe of the mountainous scenery while at the same time, glued to each piece of the family puzzle.
So…I’m left with my top two. Decisions…OK, A River Runs Through It is #2, but just by a hair…or maybe I should say, by a fly-line. This time Redford and Pitt team up together to give us a film that will make you cry tears of joy and sorrow all in a few minutes of each other. A River is very special to me, not only because of my love for fly fishing but because of its intricate connections between fathers and sons. Once again the film is set in Montana and drags us into the midst of the proto-typical American family. One brother (Pitt) is flamboyant and everyone’s favorite while the other brother, Norman Maclean (played by Craig Sheffer) is practical, useful and safe. The movie is in fact based on the novella by Norman Maclean which was set in the early 1900’s in and around Helena, Montana. My favorite scene might just be my favorite from any movie and any genre; the boys, along with their father (Tom Skerritt) have fished their home water, the Little Blackfoot, and while all three have done well, the Rev. Maclean places his large brown trout into his creel, walks away and tells the boys, “The Lord has blessed us all…he’s just been particularly good to me”! I love it and have used this same line many times as my boys have watched me haul in a smallie or trout.
Drum roll please…my # 1, all-time favorite outdoor movie – Dances With Wolves. There just isn’t enough space for me to satisfy the abundance of reasons that ‘Dances’ is at the top; let me give you a few. The scenery within the film is at times breathtaking; I often watch the film and it takes me back to my early days teaching in Wyoming. I would journey east into the grasslands of Nebraska and South Dakota to hunt birds…most of the film was shot on location in the Ogallala National Grasslands and it is a place that at first looks barren-all you have to do is get out and start walking around to find out how diverse the ecology actually is. Kevin Costner (Lt. John Dunbar) is the main character; he is also known as “Dance with Wolves” (his Indian Name) and spends the first half of the film as a white officer before transitioning to his Native American character from midway through to the end of the movie. The film does an awesome job of telling a part of our American history within the “Indian Wars” that begun in the mid-1800’s and sadly for the Indiana, finished up in 1877 at Fort Robinson in the Black hills of Nebraska. The 1990 classic has two versions; the shorter of the two is the one most widely seen…it is just under 3 ½ hours. However, if you can get your hands on the full length version (3h 56m) you will get a more full insight into the movie and into the plight of our own Native Americans. Lastly, this is one of those films that I am thankful that they didn’t make a sequel; nothing could ever top the majesty of this great film.
Well, there you have it. My list of great outdoor movies. The next time you are socked in and the weather is ‘frightful’ outside…I hope you can key up one of these greats and connect to nature as we all Enjoy the Great Outdoors.