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Why Top Gun is my fourth-favorite movie of all time

The Cold War was America's perfect war. Hear me out on this one: No matter what their purpose, whether just (World War II) or crass (the Vietnam War), wars are ultimately pretty depressing. They involve a lot of dying in horrifying and gruesome ways that leave their participants forever scarred, and let's face it: They're normally not just. To that rule, admittedly, the Cold War was no exception -- it had no real purpose except to prove some sort of ideological superiority, and in the end was not much more than a dick-measuring contest on the most enormous and costly scale ever mounted. On the bright side, though, hardly anyone died in the Cold War, and for a war where hardly anyone died, shit got unbelievably epic. For that epicness, there is no better representation than Top Gun.

When I tell people that Top Gun is my fourth-favorite movie of all time, they often have two reactions: The first one is "Really?" And the answer to that is "Yes." The second one is "What are the first three favorites?"

Let me start out by saying that I'm pretty non-committal about favorites, and so the first two are subject to change (right now I'd perhaps drop Inception and Old Boy, not necessarily in that order). My permanent third-favorite movie is Flashdance, incidentally produced, as Top Gun was, by the Voltron-tandem team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer, the most definitively American production team of all time.

Flashdance and Top Gun have a lot in common, but I marginally favor Flashdance because it features a lengthy montage set to Joe Esposito's "Lady, Lady, Lady," possibly one of the worst songs ever recorded.

In terms of sheer silliness, Kenny Loggins can't even compete.

But let's not split hairs here. More important than their impeccable sense of soundtrack mood-setting was the Bruckheimer/Simpson duo's shameless willingness to pander to the lowest common denominator coupled with their simultaneous sense of purpose; unlike Michael Bay, today's blockbuster-crapping equivalent, Bruckheimer/Simpson's sense of awe-inspiring showmanship came second to their hero worship -- where Bay's simpering Shia LaBeouf is a human foil for robots exploding shit, jets exploding shit are likewise, in

Top Gun

, a foil for Tom Cruise's tradition-bucking golden boy. And Tom Cruise in

Top Gun

is a distinctly American golden boy. Like America, Tom Cruise's Maverick has raw talent and ambition to spare -- but also like America, what separates Maverick from the rest of the raw talent and ambition is his, well, Maverick-ish-ness. In one of the movie's most priceless lines, Val Kilmer's Ice Man -- the counterpart to Maverick's lawlessness -- rhetorically asks Maverick (with his Adonis-like chest sweatily gleaming in a locker room, significantly) if he knows what the Ice Man doesn't like about him. The answer: "You're unsafe."

As it turns out, Maverick is unsafe. Because honestly, if you think about it, the death of Anthony Edwards's Goose was totally Maverick's fault. But here's what's great about it: The movie acts as if it wasn't. The Maverick's renegade spirit is what counts, and if a few people have to get hurt (or die) for him to realize his full potential, then that's just the way it has to be, because this is America, and the ends justify the means. There's a place for wholesome rule-following -- in the end, the Ice Man is Top Gun -- but everyone knows that deep down, in his heart of hearts, the true Top Gun is Maverick.

What's interesting in the death of Goose, and Top Gun in general, is that there is literally nothing at stake: There is no real combat happening -- the ending with the MIG shootout would realistically turn out so catastrophically destructive that we basically have to ignore its implications -- and so the true drama we're witnessing amounts, like the Cold War itself, to who has the bigger dick.

And if you don't know by now who the biggest dick belongs to, go back to Canada, pussy. Now, let us pray:

Film on the Rocks' presentation of

Top Gun

starts tonight at 6:45 p.m. with a performance from Candy Claws. For more information, call the Denver Film Society at 303-595-3456.

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