Staying power. It’s a key element in my definition of a favorite movie. It’s easy to sit down and watch a movie on TV or even head to the theater for a matinee and some popcorn (and chocolate covered peanuts) and be entertained for a couple hours. But will you watch the movie again in the future?? Ten years from now if the film you watched at the cineplex today is on television will you change the channel or not?? When you’re at the video store or shopping on Netflix do you stick to new releases or are there some special movies you rent over and over?? Today’s group has staying power. They range in durability from 14 to 26 to 70 years, with only one of the five being less than a decade old. In contrast, how many movies have you seen in the past few years that you forgot about almost immediately upon leaving the theater or changing the channel??
90 The Birdcage
I’m a huge Robin Williams fan. Serious Robin Williams, funny Robin Williams…it’s all good. Robin Williams is what Jim Carrey wishes he could be. In this remake of a film version of the play La Cage aux Folles, Williams co-stars with Nathan Lane as a gay couple whose son falls in love with the daughter of a conservative Senator. The two families meet, with the son and his gay parents going to great lengths to cover up the true nature of their lifestyle. Hilarity ensues. Besides Williams and Lane the cast features the always compelling Gene Hackman, Dianne Weist, Christine Baranski, and Calista Flockhart (Mrs. Harrison Ford). The underrated Hank Azaria (who voices many characters on The Simpsons) is amusing as Agador Spartacus, a flamingly flamboyant housekeeper. I’m not easily offended at all, but I am kind of surprised at this film’s success. Both conservatives and homosexuals are portrayed using the most extreme stereotypes. The gay characters embody all the typical gaudy clichés, and it is not so subtly inferred that the conservatives are anti-Semitic. However, despite the unfortunate caricatures it’s still a fun movie.
89 The Wizard of Oz
If there are more than a dozen people in America above the age of 30 who haven’t seen The Wizard of Oz multiple times I’ll eat a bug. It’s the very definition of a classic. Everyone knows the story…..young Dorothy (and her cute little puppy Toto) is transported in the midst of a tornado to the magical (and colorful) Land of Oz where she encounters several strange characters (The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, The Scarecrow, a bunch of Munchkins, some flying monkeys, and a very nasty witch). Dorothy desperately wants to get back home to her Auntie Em and Uncle Henry. That quest is the catalyst for the adventure. The film likely would have ranked much higher for me a couple decades ago when I was younger and it was an annual television event. I’ve never read the books on which the story is based, but maybe someday I will.
I’m a big fan of sports films. I’ve also begun to follow horse racing a bit the past several years. The book by Laura Hillenbrand is extremely good and I highly recommend it whether or not you’ve seen the film. The tale could be construed by some to be an animal version of Rocky, except for the fact that it’s a true story. The events depicted occurred during The Great Depression and to be honest I’d never heard about any of it until the book came out. What I find especially interesting is the inside look at the cutthroat, mercenary, brutal world of thoroughbred racing. The cast, headed by Spiderman Tobey Maguire, is just dandy.
87 The Big Chill
Take the TV show Friends, make the characters a skosh older, make the subject matter more solemn and thoughtful, add quite possibly one of the most memorable soundtracks in history, and boom…..you have The Big Chill. Made in 1983 in the midst of The Reagan Revolution, The Big Chill is the story of a group of college friends, 1960’s radical types, reuniting for the funeral of one of their own who has just committed suicide. Thankfully politics don’t play too big a part in the story. It’s more a tale of change and friendship, and how true friendship doesn’t change even when the people do. I am not sure why I have always felt a connection to this film…..after all I was just 11 years old when it was in theaters. However, now I am mere months away from attending a college reunion of my own and it makes total sense. Facebook, MySpace, cell phones, online chat, and other modern conveniences have made it much easier to reconnect and stay in touch with people, but there’s nothing like being face to face in the same room, being able to laugh, hug, and share a drink with individuals who had a hand in shaping who you are and influenced the path of life in some way. I am excited, and fortunately a funeral will not be the centerpiece of my reunion. On a basic level the movie explores former 60’s counterculture vs. the increasingly conservative Me Generation 80’s, but on a deeper level it is so much more. As a current 30-something I can now understand the restlessness, that feeling of growing stale, the inner turmoil of seeing the dreams of youth slowly dying, of looking back and wondering where all the time has gone and why life hasn’t turned out the way you’d planned. All this deep introspection is done with humor and through characters that are as real as any you’ll ever see on film. The Big Chill may be fading into the distance for many folks…..it is nearly 30 years old and features nary a car chase or explosion…..but it is so well written, the performances so good, and the subject matter so utterly timeless that it won’t soon fade for those of us who enjoy quality and don’t mind using our brain occasionally. And I mentioned the soundtrack…..wow. Most albums, especially soundtracks, will have 2 or 3 tremendous tunes. The Big Chill soundtrack is solid from top to bottom. Joy to the World…..I Heard It Through the Grapevine…..My Girl…..What’s Goin’ On…..it’s a cornucopia of musical goodness and is a huge part of the film’s success. Writer Lawrence Kasdan summed up the meaning of the title, and in a way the film, this way: “The Big Chill deals with people who have discovered that not everything they wanted is possible, that not every ideal they believed in has stayed in the forefront of their intentions. The Big Chill is about a cooling process that takes place for every generation when they move from the outward-directed, more idealistic concerns of their youth to a kind of self-absorption, a self-interest which places their personal desires above those of the society or even an ideal.” The the juxtaposition of the order of things then versus now is fascinating. Kasdan seems to be saying that as young adults we are idealistic and concerned with the world at large and making it a better place, and as we get older we become more selfish and focused on our own needs and wants. But here in 2009 it seems that young people are the selfish ones and we tend to grasp the big picture better as we get older. That’s how I feel anyway.
86 Tin Cup
I like Kevin Costner…..in the right role. His comfort zone seems to be “laid back scalawag”, something he pulls off better than anyone (Vince Vaughn is good too, but not Costner good). If you liked Bull Durham (which you will eventually see I do very much) you’ll like Tin Cup…..and if you are a golf fan you will love Tin Cup. Ample support is provided by Rene Russo, Cheech Marin, and Don Johnson…..but it’s Costner that makes this movie work. The story involves a small time golfer who hopes to make it big by winning the U.S. Open. I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t seen the film, but there is a scene near the end that takes this film straight to the upper echelon of sports flicks. You’ll know it when you see it.
- How They Write A Script: Larry Kasdan (gointothestory.com)