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In 2003, the American Film Institute created its list of the 100 greatest heroes and villains of film in the previous century. What I’m doing is that classic nerd pass time of lying back and wondering who would win in a fight. Having already gone through the list, I can promise that the vast majority of them are smashing! #47 is not.

Allow me to illustrate this…

#47. Meryl Streep in Silkwood vs. Paul Muni in Scarface

Let me start by saying: “Not that ‘Scarface’.”

This 'Scarface'.

It’s the 1932 gangster film loosely based on Al Capone. It’s notable for being the first major film directed by Howard Hawks and for being one of the movies that inspired the Hays Code to be enacted which gave rise to the MPAA. For those who don’t know, there was a time when Hollywood could do whatever the hell it wanted, in black and white. Dig back into the 1930s and you’ll find some damn gory, sexy stuff.

On the other hand, we have Silkwood. Admittedly, to unknowing, the title conjures some fairly noir images of dirty, sexy things going on and, since it’s noir, a fair amount of violence. No dice.

 

In fairness, it's not as bad as the cover makes it look.

Hey, it’s got Kurt Russell in it, how bad could it be? Then again, Cher. The thing is, every once and a while, Kurt Russell isn’t Snake Plissken and when that happens it can be painful (i.e. Overboard). So, we’ve got Meryl Streep and Kurt Russell with lesbian roommate Cher. Yup. Also, Coach. Seriously, Craig T. Nelson is in this, playing that guy at work with no sense of personal space.

All three roommies just happen to work in the same Fuel Fabrication Site. Then again, this is Oklahoma. Basically, Meryl Streep gets mildly irradiated (whiner) and discovers the company is cutting corners to meet deadlines and becomes politically active in lobbying for safeguards. She becomes obsessed with proving that the company is endangering the workers (to the point where Kurt Russell leaves her) and just as she is about to crack the case, it’s implied that she’s bumped off.

The thing is, Streep is doing all of this as a total bumpkin. Mind, like Muni up there, she is playing a character based on a real person (here: Karen Silkwood). The whole movie, while convincing, is really just ultra-topical Oscar bait (and boy did the gold man bite).

So, for all the black and white awesome that was Scarface, I’m not pitting it against a mullet-tastic, conspiracy flick about why we need OSHA and unions. It’s not fair to anyone.

You know what else came out in 1932? This:

 

Back when zombies were just people under hypnosis.

Awesome.

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