The 2020 Sammy Awards – Part III

Welcome to the exciting conclusion of The Sammy Awards. Please give a rousing ovation for the host of our show…legendary comedic actor Bill Murray!! And if you need to catch up on the proceedings thus far you may do so here & here.

 

We think The Manoverse could use a little more laughter, so let’s welcome an up & coming comedienne who y’all really need to check out. She hails from Knoxville, TN and the combination of a charming southern drawl and clean, relatable, slice-of-life comedy has made her a favorite of ours. Give a warm welcome to Leanne Morgan!!

 

 

To present our next award it is a true pleasure to welcome the star of soap operas like Days of Our Lives & General Hospital and a plethora of Hallmark movies. She’s got a smile that can light up the Vegas Strip…give it up for Jen Lilley!! And the nominees are:

 

 

Favorite TV/Radio Program

 

The World According to Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum is a national treasure. His filmography includes modern classics like The Big Chill & Independence Day, as well as a 1980 TV series called Ten Speed & Brown Shoe. In 2020 I discovered a program Goldblum hosted that had actually began on Disney+ in late 2019. Throughout the ten episodes Goldblum explores a variety of things like tattoos, coffee, & ice cream. We’ve seen similar shows on The History Channel, The Food Network, & Discovery, but Goldblum is such a unique personality that he is able to take a topic and make it fascinating with his quirky wit & singular cadence. So far Disney+ hasn’t produced a second season, but I’m confident we’ll get one in the near future.

 

NFL Redzone

I still don’t know whether it is a channel or a show unto itself, but I do know that there are few things more enjoyable than seven straight hours of commercial free football every Sunday afternoon in the autumn.

 

Cobra Kai

The Karate Kid ranked 7th on my list of favorite sports films five years ago, and unbeknownst to me a television show that catches up with Daniel LaRusso & Johnny Lawrence three+ decades later premiered on something called YouTube Red in 2018. Fortunately Netflix bought the show last summer, and it only took me two nights to catch up on the first two seasons. We find that Daniel has become a slightly cocky car salesman who capitalized on his karate exploits to succeed in business and become a local celebrity, while Johnny is down-on-his-luck, can’t hold a job, has an estranged son, and harbors no small amount of bitterness & resentment toward Daniel about all that happened between them back in high school. Reboots, remakes, sequels, etc. are dangerous ground to walk on, but Hollywood keeps on trying. Cobra Kai is well done. The writing is solid, the new characters we are introduced to are fun & interesting, and the juxtaposition in how we view Daniel & Johnny now versus back in the day is a nice twist. With the music & other nostalgia the show is a special treat for 80s kids, but it is accessible enough for anyone to enjoy.

 

WWE NXT

The pandemic has been tough on live music & sports, but pro wrestling has adapted well enough. I’m sure it isn’t intentional given WWE’s big money deal with Fox to air Smackdown and Raw’s standing as the company’s flagship program for nearly three decades, but for many die hard wrestling fans NXT has become the show to watch. It has the best product and the best athletes of any other wrestling show on television.

 

General Hospital

Yes, I still DVR “my stories”, but while The Young & The Restless has become a snoozefest and Days of Our Lives is just ridiculous at times, GH has maintained a consistent level of watchability.

 

The Rush Limbaugh Program

To be honest I have probably listened to Rush less in the past year than at any time since I discovered his brilliance back in the early 90’s. I’ve been laid up since May of last year and haven’t been driving my truck, which is usually when I’d listen. I’ve made no secret of my decreased interest in politics. Having said that, on the rare occasions that I do get to hear a little snippet of Rush’s insightful commentary I still find him to be compelling and smart. I am all too aware that I have many friends & family that might be horrified to find out that I am a Dittohead, but I find their political views just as disappointing, which is why it’s something I am very careful about discussing openly. I find it sad, but it really has come to that in America.

 

Jeopardy!

Unfortunately this might be the final time the show receives a Sammy nomination. I don’t think the format of the game will change, but so much depends on who is ultimately chosen to be the new host. Forgive me for not having a whole lot of confidence about that choice being a good one. I hope I am wrong.

 

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…

 

 

Cobra Kai. First, a shoutout to my friend Melanie who encouraged me to watch the show. Also, no disrespect to YouTube Red, but kudos to Netflix for giving it a much larger platform enabling so many more fans to discover it. Is Cobra Kai a perfect TV show?? No, it’s not. Perhaps only 80’s kids like me can really appreciate it. Younger folks may find it occasionally cheesy, but I’m okay with that. After all, how much respect do we owe generations that made boy bands, Twilight, and Taylor Swift successful?? It is still a little odd for me to binge an entire season in one night then have to wait several months for new episodes, but that’s just the way things work nowadays. Like most other programs that air on streaming services I don’t expect Cobra Kai to last any longer than 4 or 5 years, but that’s alright…nostalgia has a shelf life. I am one of those people who rails against the glut of sequels, remakes, reboots, et al indicating a lack of creativity in Hollywood, but I understand that view is hypocritical. When they revive something we love and do it well then it’s just dandy, right?? Such is the case with Cobra Kai.

 

 

To present our next award please welcome two of America’s most beloved game show hosts. First is a gentleman who has hosted Wheel of Fortune for nearly forty years. Please buy a vowel for Pat Sajak!! He is joined by an actor/comedian who has hosted Family Feud since 2010. Give it up for Steve Harvey!!

 

The Charles Barkley Role Model Award

 

Alex Trebek

 

I’ve told this story before elsewhere, but the day my mother ended up in a vegetative state that would lead to her death a few days later she fixed a good supper for me & my Dad. As a matter of fact, she had answered the bell, so to speak, for more than twenty years, getting up every day and taking care of her family even when she didn’t feel a bit good. So I have tremendous respect for Alex Trebek, who after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in the spring of 2019, continued to show up for work for the next year & a half. Anyone watching Jeopardy! during that time never would have guessed what he was going thru because he did his job with the grace, class, & professionalism that he’d always shown since he’d began hosting in 1984. Jeopardy! is by far the greatest game show of all time, and even though Trebek was a low key guy who never wanted the focus on himself the fact is that we are about to find out just how important his silky delivery & subtle humor was to the show. Alex Trebek even loved Will Ferrell’s hilarious impression of him in Saturday Night Live sketches that were a pop culture phenomenon back in the late 1990s because he was a man who didn’t take himself too seriously. I like people who are comfortable enough to laugh at themselves. Soon I will be reading Mr. Trebek’s autobiography that was published less than five months before his death, and I’m really looking forward to learning more about a man that I’ve admired since I was a teenager. I’ll give a fair chance to whoever ends up being named the new host of Jeopardy!, but that person will have to be extremely good to even approach the awesomeness of their predecessor. My father always says that death is part of life, but just because it’s true doesn’t make it easy. Godspeed Alex Trebek, and thank you.

 

 

To present our next award it is a pleasure to welcome a man who we’ve thought about inviting to be part of the show for a long time, but usually he is busy this time of year. His spies have already told him who the winner is. Give a polite golf clap to the head coach of the New England Patriots…Bill Belichick!! And the nominees are:

 

 

The Agony of Defeat Award

 

Antonio Brown

What the hell happened to Antonio Brown?? He was an All-Pro wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers until he lost his damn mind and burned a ton of bridges. He bounced from the Steelers to the Raiders to the Patriots. He was suspended for the first half of the 2020 season before making his debut with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It makes me sick that he has been rewarded for all his foolishness by ending up on a team quarterbacked by Tom Brady that could actually wind up in the Super Bowl.

 

MLB Sign Stealing Scandal

I don’t know if the 2020 MLB season will be remembered half as much as the scandal that rocked the league in its offseason. It was discovered that in 2017 & ’18 the Houston Astros used a method involving video cameras in the outfield and players on the bench banging on trash cans to tip off their batters to what kind of pitch to expect. Whatever they were doing worked since the Astros won the World Series in 2017. Houston bench coach Alex Cora became manager of the Boston Red Sox the following season and they proceeded to win the World Series, and though they were absolved of cheating accusations by MLB there are those that say they did the same kind of thing the Astros had done, just not as much. At any rate, neither team was stripped of their championship, but both Cora and Astros’ skipper AJ Hinch lost their jobs. Cora has since been rehired, while Hinch has been named the new manager of the Detroit Tigers.

 

Kobe Bryant

On January 26, 2020 a helicopter crash claimed the life of 41 year old Bryant and eight others, including his 13 year old daughter Gigi. Bryant had retired from the Lakers in 2016.

 

March Sadness

Of the many COVID-related sports casualties last year perhaps the most significant was the NCAA Basketball Tournament. The Super Bowl had already taken place, and the World Series, Stanley Cup playoffs, and NBA playoffs all still happened. Other events like the Kentucky Derby, The Masters, & Indianapolis 500 were delayed but were held eventually. March Madness wasn’t so fortunate. That all went down way back at the beginning of the pandemic when everything was new and we were all just flying by the seat of our pants. Thankfully the sports world adapted and most everything else has gone on as scheduled, albeit without fans in attendance. I think the cancellation of the basketball tournament was one of the first indications that the whole virus situation is very real and quite serious.

 

Bubba’s “Noose”

My relationship with NASCAR has been a roller coaster for a number of years. I went from catching every race each Sunday to not watching at all for a couple of seasons to a happy medium where I watch occasionally, neither boycotting it altogether nor being all that invested as a fan. Bubba Wallace has won zero races in four years, and his entire existence in NASCAR revolves around identity politics. Last summer, as race riots rocked the nation, Bubba seized on the opportunity by claiming he’d found a noose in his garage at Talladega. As it turns out it wasn’t a noose at all…it was a garage door pulley that had been there for years. Of course if you present the media with a divisive narrative they will pounce and squeeze every ounce of drama out of it, and Bubba Wallace lost all credibility when he chose to perpetuate the lie instead admitting he was wrong.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…

 

 

Kobe Bryant. I wasn’t a huge Kobe fan when he was playing. As fans we choose who we cheer and who we boo for a variety of reasons, some of which aren’t necessarily rooted in logic. However, one of the fascinating things that occurs with sports fandom is that oftentimes, as a player ages, our opinion of them becomes a bit more conciliatory. We begrudgingly recognize their greatness and appreciate the fact that we were around to witness it. I remember watching Kobe’s final game in 2016. He dropped 60 points on the Utah Jazz, including the game winning shot. It was a meaningless game since the Lakers were terrible and not going to the playoffs, but as far as storybook endings in sports go it ranks near the top, and I was glad to see it. In retirement Kobe’s image had softened as he embraced the role of #GirlDad, and chances are Gigi was destined to become a college & WNBA superstar. Most if not all plane/helicopter crashes are tragic, but this one…this one might have been the most depressing in recent history. Children died…kids whose lives were just beginning. And Kobe?? He may have been retired and considered old within the realm of sports, but he was only 41 years old. 41! Who knows what his second act may have been. Broadcaster?? Coach?? Team owner or executive?? Perhaps he would have found success outside of basketball. Sadly we will never know what might have been.

 

 

Are you ready for the final award of the evening?? Well you better check yourself because our next presenter is for real and he’s prepared to go to war!! Don’t even think about messing with him!! He has spent more than two decades as a public school teacher in the inner city and he will not tolerate anyone being insubordinate or churlish. Please answer “Present!” as the roll is called by Mr. Garvey!!

 

 

Most Significant News Story

 

The Sickness

 

Should there be other nominees?? Perhaps. 2020 saw the President of the United States impeached, months of race riots, a significant change in the Supreme Court, and a Presidential Election. In a normal year any of those could justifiably win this award. But raise your hand if you ever thought you’d be alive to witness a global pandemic. Whether you call it Coronavirus, COVID-19, the China Virus, the Kung Fu Flu, or anything else, the fact is that nothing we have faced in my 40+ years on the planet has affected so many in such a variety of ways. Worldwide two million people have lost their lives, with almost 400k deaths here in America. It has devastated economies, shuttered businesses, and destroyed dreams. It has altered the way we live our daily lives. Masks, social distancing, working from home, distance learning, empty sports stadiums, online church services, curbside pickup at restaurants, and a variety of other things have become the norm as we adapt because that’s what human beings do…we find a way to move forward and live our lives. Whatever you may believe about the origin of the virus, how our leaders handled the crisis, the media’s role in propagating fear, or what the best path may be in the immediate future, the fact is it is real. Like many others I didn’t take it seriously at first, and to be honest I haven’t feared it all that much because I’ve been on the shelf…quarantined in my own odd way…since May 2020. That being said, I know people who have had the virus. I have heard about their battle, and it doesn’t seem fun at all. The good news (maybe) is that a vaccine has arrived, though I will take a raincheck on offering an opinion about that until there is more data. I am hopeful that the day will come when we can all break bread together at a restaurant, greet each other warmly with a handshake or a hug at church, enjoy live music in a crowded venue, and venture out without a mask. When will that be?? I don’t know.

 

 

 

2020

2020

 

iconic TV host Regis Philbin…record setting test pilot Brigadier General Chuck Yeager…Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg…NBA Hall-of-Famers Kobe Bryant (Los Angeles Lakers), Jerry Sloan (Utah Jazz), & Wes Unseld (Washington Bullets), & KC Jones (Boston Celtics)…actor (The Dick Van Dyke Show, History of the World Part 1, the Ocean’s trilogy) & director (Oh God!, The Jerk, Summer School) Carl Reiner…NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson…legendary soccer player Diego Maradona…National Lampoon publisher & film producer Matty Simmons (Animal House, the Vacation series)…acting coach & TV host James Lipton (Inside the Actors Studio)…former boxing champion Roger Mayweather…film director Joel Schumacher (St. Elmo’s Fire, Falling Down, Batman Forever, A Time to Kill, Batman & Robin) & producer Charles Gordon (Field of Dreams, Die Hard 2, October Sky)…controversial civil servant Linda Tripp…comedian Norm Crosby…former MLB managers Jim Frey (Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals) & John McNamara (Boston Red Sox)…authors Mary Higgins Clark, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Clive Cussler, John LeCarre, & Winston Groom…Reese Schonfeld (founder of The Food Network)…race car driver John Andretti…game show hosts Alex Trebek (Jeopardy!) & Tom Kennedy (Password Plus)…soap opera producer Lee Phillip Bell (The Young & the Restless, The Bold & the Beautiful)…Harlem Globetrotters legend Curly Neal…singers/musicians Eddie Van Halen (Van Halen), Kenny Rogers, Helen Reddy, Joe Diffie, Charlie Daniels, Neil Peart (Rush), Bill Withers, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bonnie Pointer (The Pointer Sisters), Adam Schlesinger (Fountains of Wayne), John Prine, Little Richard, Jack Sherman (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Tommy DeVito (The Four Seasons), Mac Davis, Billy Joe Shaver, Nikki McKibbin (American Idol), Chad Stuart (Chad & Jeremy), KT Oslin, & Charley Pride…Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem & Belmont Stakes winner AP Indy…televangelist Jack Van Impe…football coaches Don Shula (Miami Dolphins), Johnny Majors (Pitt Panthers, Tennessee Volunteers), George Perles (Pittsburgh Steelers, Michigan St. Spartans), Sam Wyche (Cincinnati Bengals), Woody Widenhofer (Pittsburgh Steelers, Detroit Lions), Pat Dye (Auburn Tigers), & Ray Perkins (New York Giants)… businessman & former Presidential candidate Herman Cain… Olympic gymnast Kurt Thomas & decathlon champion Rafer Johnson… former U.S. Attorney General & Governor of Pennsylvania Dick Thornburgh…actresses Olivia de Havilland (Gone with the Wind, The Adventures of Robin Hood), Dawn Wells (Gilligan’s Island), Marj Dusay (Guiding Light, Capitol, Santa Barbara), Paula Kelly (Night Court), Naya Rivera (Glee), Kelly Preston (Jerry Maguire), Conchata Ferrell, & Elsa Raven (Back to the Future, Titanic)… magician Roy Horn… journalists Jim Lehrer, Bob Ryder,  & Hugh Downs…Academy Award winning screenwriter Bruce Jay Friedman (Splash, Stir Crazy)…Hall of Fame college basketball coaches John Thompson (Georgetown Hoyas), Eddie Sutton (Kentucky Wildcats, Arkansas Razorbacks), Lute Olson (Arizona Wildcats), & Lou Henson (Illinois Fighting Illini), & Billy Tubbs (Oklahoma Sooners)… former FBI Director William Sessions & former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft…world renowned golf course designer Pete Dye… fashion designer Pierre Cardin… famed TV executive Fred Silverman…former MLB players Bob Gibson (St. Louis Cardinals), Tom Seaver (New York Mets, Cincinnati Reds), Joe Morgan (Cincinnati Reds), Phil Niekro (Atlanta Braves), Lou Brock (Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals), Don Larsen (New York Yankees), Tony Fernandez (Toronto Blue Jays), Claudell Washington (Atlanta Braves, Oakland Athletics), Whitey Ford (New York Yankees), & Dick Allen (Philadelphia Phillies)… Joe Clark (school principal depicted in the film Lean On Me)… songwriters Phil Phillips (Sea of Love), Kenny Young (Under the Boardwalk), & Johnny Nash (I Can See Clearly Now)…former NFL players Gale Sayers (Chicago Bears), Paul Hornung (Green Bay Packers), Chris Doleman (Minnesota Vikings), Willie Wood (Green Bay Packers), Tom Dempsey (New Orleans Saints), Bobby Mitchell (Washington Redskins), Tarvaris Jackson (Seattle Seahawks, Minnesota Vikings), Willie Davis (Green Bay Packers), Reche Caldwell (San Diego Chargers, Washington Redskins), Jim Kiick (Miami Dolphins), Carleton Haselrig (Pittsburgh Steelers), Fred Dean (San Diego Chargers, San Francisco 49ers), Herb Adderley (Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys), Lorenzo Taliaferro (Baltimore Ravens), & Kevin Greene (Pittsburgh Steelers)… Rep. John Lewis (Georgia)…former NBA Commissioner David Stern…Mad magazine artist Mort Drucker… broadcasters & Miss Americas (1971) Phyllis George & (1993) Leanza Cornett… scandalous teacher Mary Kay Letourneau…actors Kirk Douglas (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Spartacus), Sean Connery (portrayed James Bond in seven films), Jerry Stiller (Seinfeld, King of Queens), Fred Willard (This Is Spinal Tap, Best in Show, Anchorman, American Wedding, Real People), Chadwick Boseman (Draft Day, 42, Black Panther), Buck Henry (Saturday Night Live, Grumpy Old Men), Jack Burns (The Andy Griffith Show), John Karlen (Cagney & Lacey), Terry Jones (Monty Python), Edd Byrnes (Grease), Orson Bean (Being John Malkovich, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman), Robert Conrad (The Wild Wild West), Roscoe Born (One Life to Live, Santa Barbara), Max Von Sydow (The Greatest Story Ever Told), Lyle Waggoner (Wonder Woman, The Carol Burnett Show), David Schramm (Wings), Brian Dennehy (First Blood, Tommy Boy, Presumed Innocent), Ken Osmond (Leave it to Beaver), Sir Ian Holm (Lord of the Rings & The Hobbit trilogies), Richard Herd (TJ Hooker, Seinfeld), Wilford Brimley (Cocoon, The Natural, Our House), Raymond Allen (Sanford & Son), Trini Lopez (The Dirty Dozen), Kevin Dobson (Knots Landing), Tiny Lister (No Holds Barred), & David Lander (Laverne & Shirley)…famed businessman Jack Welch (former Chairman & CEO of General Electric) & Sumner Redstone (Chairman Emeritus of Viacom)…former Chicago Bears executive Michael McCaskey…editor Christopher Tolkien (son of The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings author JRR Tolkien)…pro wrestlers Pat Patterson, Road Warrior Animal, Kamala the Ugandan Giant, Rocky Johnson, Bullet Bob Armstrong, Rip Oliver, Shad Gaspard, Mr. Wrestling II, Killer Tim Brooks, Danny Hodge, Brodie Lee, Tracy Smothers, and ring announcers Howard Finkel & Joe Pedicino…New York Yankees owner Hank Steinbrenner… former NY City Mayor David Dinkins… astrologer Jackie Stallone (mother of Sylvester & Frank)…former NBA players Tommy Heinsohn (Boston Celtics) & Clifford Robinson (Portland Trailblazers)

 

 

 

2019

 

businessman & former Presidential candidate Ross Perot…Vera Clemente (widow of baseball HOFer Roberto Clemente…TV producer Lee Mendelson (A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown)…radio shock jock Don Imus…comedian Rip Taylor…renowned auto executive Lee Iacocca…NASCAR team owners J. D. Gibbs (co-owner of Joe Gibbs Racing & son of legendary football coach Joe Gibbs), Junior Johnson, & Glen Wood (co-founder of Wood Brothers Racing)…Wild Kingdom co-host Jim Fowler…actresses Carol Channing (Hello Dolly), Valerie Harper (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda, Valerie), Verna Bloom (Animal House), Julie Adams (The Andy Griffith Show), Carmen Duncan (Another World), Katherine Helmond (Soap, Who’s the Boss?), Diahann Carroll (Dynasty), Georgia Engel (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), & Peggy Lipton (The Mod Squad)…authors Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny, The Winds of War), Jean Edward Smith (noted political biographer), W. E. B. Griffin (military fiction), & Toni Morrison (Beloved)…directors Stanley Donen (Singin’ in the Rain), John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood, 2 Fast 2 Furious), & Franco Zeffirelli (Romeo & Juliet)…former NFL players Bart Starr (Green Bay Packers), Wade Wilson (Oakland Raiders), Sam Davis (Pittsburgh Steelers), Bob Kuechenberg (Miami Dolphins), Turk Schonert (Cincinnati Bengals), Russell Gary (Philadelphia Eagles), Eric Moss (Minnesota Vikings), Forrest Gregg (Green Bay Packers), Willie Brown (Oakland Raiders), Charles Rogers (Detroit Lions), Reggie Cobb (Tampa Bay Buccaneers), Gino Marchetti (Baltimore Colts), Jared Lorenzen (New York Giants), Cedric Benson (Chicago Bears), & Cliff Branch (Oakland Raiders)…consumer reporter David Horowitz…prominent business executives T. Boone Pickens & Barron Hilton…Oscar winning composer André Previn (Porgy & Bess, My Fair Lady)…former U.S. Surgeon General  Robert N. McClelland…pro sports team owners Larry Weinberg (Portland Trailblazers), Bill Bidwill (Arizona Cardinals), & Pat Bowlen (Denver Broncos)…infamous game show contestant Charles Van Doren…former public officials Senator & Governor of South Carolina Fritz Hollings, US Senator (Indiana) Richard Luger, Congressman John Dingell (Michigan), Congressman John Conyers (Michigan), Senator & Congressman Thad Cochran (Mississippi), Congressman Elijah Cummings (Maryland)…sportscasters Jack Whitaker, Rod Bramblett (Auburn Tigers), & Chet Coppock… actors Tim Conway (The Carol Burnett Show),  Bill Macy (Maude), Albert Finney (Scrooge [1970], Murder on the Orient Express, AnnieErin Brockovich, Ocean’s Twelve), John Witherspoon (Friday), Bob Einstein (aka Super Dave Osbourne), Kristoff St. John (The Young & The Restless), Rip Torn (The Larry Sanders Show, Dodgeball), Nathaniel Taylor (Rollo on Sanford & Son), Morgan Woodward (Dallas), Jan-Michael Vincent (Hooper, Airwolf), Luke Perry (Beverly Hills 90210), Jed Allan (Days of Our Lives, Santa Barbara), Ken Kercheval (Dallas), René Auberjonois (Benson, Deep Space Nine, Boston Legal), Flash Jenkins (Fletch, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), John Clarke (Days of Our Lives), Peter Mayhew (Star Wars’ Chewbacca), Max Wright (ALF), Arte Johnson (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In), Eddie Jones (Lois & Clark), Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner), Danny Aiello (Do the Right Thing), Philip McKeon (Alice), Ron Leibman (Norma Rae, Friends), & Peter Fonda (Easy Rider)…NBA Hall-of-Famer John Havlicek (Boston Celtics)…political activist Lyndon LaRouche…football coaches Hayden Fry (Iowa Hawkeyes), George Welsh (Virginia Cavaliers, Navy Midshipmen), Herman Boone (portrayed by Denzel Washington in Remember the Titans), Dick Tomey (Arizona Wildcats), George Chaump (Marshall Thundering Herd, Navy Midshipmen), Gunther Cunningham (Kansas City Chiefs, Detroit Lions), Walt Michaels (New York Jets), John Ralston (Denver Broncos), Pat Sullivan (Auburn Tigers), & Darryl Drake (Pittsburgh Steelers)…musicians Eddie Money, Ric Ocasek (The Cars), Daryl Dragon (Captain & Tennille), James Ingram, Mac Wiseman, Peter Tork (The Monkees), Dick Dale, Earl Thomas Conley, Leon Redbone, Dr. John, & Dave Bartholomew…baseball legends Frank Robinson (Baltimore Orioles), Bob Friend (Pittsburgh Pirates), Mel Stottlemyre (New York Yankees), Don Newcombe (Los Angeles Dodgers), Bill Buckner (Boston Red Sox), & Jim Bouton (New York Yankees)…journalists Jack Perkins & Cokie Roberts…Hall of Fame hockey player Ted Lindsay…Beth Chapman (wife of Dog The Bounty Hunter)…retired golfer Gene Littler…former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens…pro wrestling stars  “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Les Thornton, Pedro Morales, Salvatore Bellomo, King Kong Bundy, Silver King, Moondog Rex, Ashley Massaro, Max Muscle, Perro Aguayo, Rick Bogner, & Eddie Marlin…retired NFL referee Red Cashion…economist & former chairman of the Federal Reserve Paul Volcker…infamous marathoner Rosie Ruiz… fashion designers Gloria Vanderbilt & Karl Lagerfeld…champion boxer Pernell Whitaker… James H. Shepherd (founder of Atlanta, GA’s Shepherd Center rehabilitation facility)…former NASA flight director Chris Craft…sportswriter Don Banks

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 2020 Sammy Awards – Part II

Annnnnddd we’re back!! The 2020 Sammy Awards continues with some amusing comments from our host Bill Murray, and if you missed Part 1 now would be the time to catch up.

 

 

It’s time for our next award, and to do the honors it is a pleasure to welcome a jack-of-all trades. He’s best known as a rapper, but he’s also tried his hand at pro wrestling, acting, cooking tasty vittles with his pal Martha Stewart, sports commentating, and pitching all sorts of products in commercials. Please welcome to the hizhouse Snoop Dogg!! And the nominees are:

 

The Twitter Award for Best Water Cooler Topic

 

Harry & Meaghan

America’s fascination with the British Royal Family endures, except she’s not British and apparently neither are royal anymore. I have no idea how any of that works. Anyway, the younger son of Prince Charles and the late & nearly deified Princess Diana married marginally famous American actress Meaghan Markle in 2018. In 2019 they had a son. In 2020 they ditched the whole royal thing and moved to Canada then California. I don’t know. I don’t care. Whatever.

 

Hamilton

I’ve never been to New York, but if I ever make it there I’ll be sure to catch a Broadway show or two. Fortunately with technology & a plethora of entertainment options many of the best plays & musicals can be viewed from the comfort of our own living room nowadays. Hamilton has been a sensation ever since it opened in 2015, and in July 2020 a filmed performance was made available on Disney+. I watched it and found the show quite entertaining, with a plethora of catchy tunes.

 

Jeopardy GOAT

Back in January 2020 Jeopardy aired a week long battle between its three greatest champions: Ken Jennings (appeared initially in 2004, winning 74 games & $2.5 million…both are still records), Brad Rutter (after his first appearance in 2000 he came back for multiple Tournament of Champions events and ultimately won over $4 million), and James Holzhauer (won over $2.4 million in 33 games in 2019 then won that year’s Tournament of Champions). The GOAT tournament was won easily by Jennings, with Holzhauer winning just one game and Rutter being practically invisible.

 

Toilet Paper Shortage

No one knew what to expect at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were told that if we simply self-quarantined for a couple of weeks everything would be fine. That, of course, was a big fat lie, and one of the byproducts was a toilet paper shortage that is still kind of a thing 9 months later. We encounter this issue almost every winter when the local meteorologist announces a big snowstorm is coming. People rush to the grocery store and panic buy as if they’re going to be trapped in their house for weeks, and toilet paper is always at the top of the shopping list.

 

J-Lo & Shakira

2020 can be divided into two eras…pre-pandemic and mid-pandemic, with the former feeling like it belongs in a previous decade. The Super Bowl took place pre-pandemic, and the halftime show featured Jennifer Lopez & Shakira in a provocative performance that had Boomers longing for the good ol’ days of folk music & The Rat Pack. Churchy types immediately condemned the two women to the fiery pits of Hell and doused themselves in holy water just for watching it on TV. Their music isn’t really my cup o’ tea, but I wasn’t especially offended by it.

 

Murder Hornets

2020 was such a terrible year that people began wondering what might befall us next. Like the plagues described in the Biblical book of Exodus we were prepared for anything from frogs to locusts to the killing of our firstborn children. It is my understanding that murder hornets are actually real, but fortunately they didn’t swarm the United States like some sort of cheesy 70’s horror movie…yet.

 

The Last Dance

Full disclosure…I haven’t seen the 10 part documentary about the end of Michael Jordan’s dynasty with the Chicago Bulls. I have no excuse. I’ve had plenty of time to watch it but just haven’t. Someday I will though…I hear it is quite good.

 

State of the Union

On February 4, 2020 President Trump gave what we now know was his final State of the Union address. I don’t usually watch, but that night I did and, objectively speaking, thought it was a good speech. Trump isn’t the best public speaker in the world, but I thought he was quite effective. He probably introduced too many special guests during the nearly hour & a half speech and it felt a bit gimmicky, but it’s a small nit to pick. I was especially touched when he presented Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom because Rush had just announced his lung cancer diagnosis the day before. I know a lot of people had an issue with it, but since previous recipients include Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas, blues legend BB King, cellist Yo Yo Ma, college basketball coach Dean Smith, actor Robert Redford, and Satan’s favorite talk show host Oprah Winfrey I see no problem with giving it to Rush Limbaugh. After the speech was over Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi famously tore up her paper copy on national television, and whether you cheered her on or thought it was a childish act showing no class likely depends on your political leanings.

 

Tiger King

Yeah, I haven’t seen it either. I guess it was on Netflix, and it spawned Halloween costumes & landed one of the people featured a gig on Dancing with the Stars. I briefly thought about checking it out, but I’m not usually one to follow the crowd.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Toilet Paper. Oh the memes!! One of the few silver linings in the early days of the pandemic were the parody songs & memes. Okay, I get it…toilet paper is important. But is it that important?? Why were people hoarding it?? If you run out can’t you use paper towels or notebook paper or leaves off the tree in your backyard?? Is toilet paper more valuable than food?? And why the panic buying?? Did people honestly believe that the grocery stores were ever going to shut down?? Restaurants can close. We can live without retail shops, movie theaters, & bars for a bit. But people have to eat, so there was never any reason to go crazy over toilet paper, yet people did and it was kind of hilarious.

 

To present our next award we are pleased to welcome the nation’s unlikeliest Governor. Straight from the hills of West Virginia you better follow the f#*&(@g guidelines for Gov. Jim Justice!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

App of the Year

 

Twitter

At the moment The Manofesto hasn’t been banned, but stay tuned.

 

Facebook

It seems like more & more social media platforms are popping up, but as much as people keep threatening to ditch Facebook the truth is most haven’t and won’t until something better comes along, which hasn’t happened…yet.

 

Words with Friends

It’s like an old friend you may not talk to for awhile but you know will always be there. I might go days without playing a game…or I may have five games going at once.

 

Zoom

Seriously…had anyone even heard of Zoom before 2020?? It has apparently been a thing since 2011, but really hit its stride this past year, making working from home much easier. Just make sure you’re dressed appropriately and not doing anything naughty on camera.

 

Amazon Music

I’ve always loved music, but this past year it has really been a vital part of everyday life. No matter what kind of sadness or chaos surrounds us, no matter how lost we may feel at a particular moment in time, music can always soothe a troubled soul.

 

Instagram

I finally joined the Instagram party in August 2020. I use it strictly for funny or thought provoking memes, though I am aware there are other ways one can utilize it. There are those who use the platform quite effectively, and I envy the proficiency they display.

 

Spades Royale

I’m still playing Spades. I was especially thankful for it in 2020 when the game provided brief intervals of relaxation and centered me during a rather stressful & lonely stretch of time.

 

TikTok

Like Zoom this is something that burst on the scene in the absence of normalcy. I’ve never used it and likely never will, but any technology that can provide amusement in an increasingly unamusing world deserves kudos.

 

Pinterest

Social media has become a landmine where relationships can be destroyed & lives negatively impacted by one provocative post, but the most controversial thing you’ll find on Pinterest might be a list of banned books or a recipe that doesn’t seem particularly appetizing. It isn’t really a place I can waste hours of time, but it’s good for an occasional brief distraction.

 

FB Messenger

I actually use Messenger more than Facebook now. I’d much rather interact with people on Messenger than on the phone or even thru text.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

Zoom. I haven’t had the pleasure of using it because my job isn’t important like that, but I am aware that it has become a valuable tool and may permanently alter how business is conducted, even post-pandemic.

 

 

We couldn’t think of a better person to present the next award than Buzz Lightyear himself. He has been tickling our funny bones for decades on TV shows like Home Improvement & Last Man Standing, and has starred in memorable movies like the Toy Story series, Galaxy Quest, and the Santa Clause trilogy. Please grunt in appreciation for Tim Allen!! And the nominees are:

 

 

 

Buzzword of the Year

 

Social Distancing

Hopefully it’s something we can stop doing in the near future, but staying home and keeping six feet apart when forced to be out in public was a defining characteristic of 2020.

 

“With an abundance of caution…”

When you hear that phrase you know some event is about to be cancelled and something you’ve been looking forward to isn’t going to happen.

 

The New Normal

I don’t like the “new normal”. I want my old normal back!!

 

Hydrochloroquine Phosphate

Did I spell it correctly?? I hope so. Apparently it’s a medication that’s been around for awhile treating other conditions and showed some promise in minimizing COVID-19, but as soon as President Trump sang its praises the media and all their leftist buddies started hating on it. After all, we wouldn’t want to screw poor Bill Gates out of the billions he’s probably going to make from a government approved vaccine.

 

Contact Tracing

I’m not sure exactly what it is or how it works, but the whole idea seems a bit creepy.

 

Essential Employees

Is it better to be considered essential and have to put your health at risk going to work, or be classified as non-essential meaning you can hole up in the safety of your home but you lose the ability to provide for yourself & your family?? Whatever one’s thoughts might be on the subject there is no denying that 2020 made it clear what is really important and who is truly responsible for making our lives better.

 

Defund the Police

It’s a stupid idea no matter how you present it. Are there bad cops out there?? Sure. But you don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. If someone wants to talk about police reform I’m all ears. Nothing is perfect and it’s a great idea to implement positive changes. However, I’m sick & tired of the hatred that has been shown toward law enforcement.

 

Flatten the Curve

When all of the craziness began last spring the goal was allegedly to calm things to the point that hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. That has been proven to be a lie, as hospitals in most places have been more than capable of handling COVID-related spikes.

 

Asymptomatic

So even if you’re not sick you may still be sick. Alrighty then.

 

PPE

Personal protective equipment. Masks, face shields, etc. Hey, if it helps that’s awesome, but Good Lord…I feel so bad for folks that have to wear that stuff for 8-12 hours every time they go to work.

 

“These unprecedented times…”

Yeah, yeah…we know. We got it. You can quit saying it everytime you want to sound self-important and reflective. None of us expected to be living thru a global pandemic.

 

Quarantine

Human beings need interaction. We are social creatures. We crave contact, whether it be a handshake, hug, high five, or the communal experience of sitting in a crowded restaurant or attending a show at a packed theater. Sure it’s nice to sit at home reading a book or mindlessly scrolling thru our phone, but someday it’s going to be glorious to be out & about again enjoying life as it is meant to be.

 

Herd Immunity

I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on TV, so I will refrain from offering an uninformed medical opinion. But it is interesting to ponder the idea of how things may have turned out if we’d skipped all of this panic and just let things play out like we usually do with the latest dangerous illness. Would the death toll have been much worse?? Have all of the steps we’ve taken (destroying the economy & people’s lives in the process) actually helped?? We’ll never know, will we??

 

Panic Buying

We’ve already talked about toilet paper. I remember going to the grocery store back in May of last year before I encountered my own health issues, and the bare shelves really struck me. Yes, there have been some shortages and some interruptions in the supply chain, but anyone who thought grocery stores were going to shut down and we wouldn’t have access to food or other necessities has probably watched Red Dawn too many times.

 

Distance Learning

More than ever this past year I have been confronted with the loneliness that comes with being single & childless, but I must admit that I’m glad not to have kids in school in the midst of all of this, and even happier not to be a schoolkid myself. Kudos to the parents, teachers, & students who have somehow kept things going. I know it can’t be easy.

 

Contactless Delivery

My father has been kind enough to pick up groceries that I order online while I’ve been laid up, and he commented that I spend more buying stuff than he does. It dawned on me that it is because I’m not eating out like I usually do. Having said that, I do occasionally order Chinese or a pizza, and most places offer the option of paying online and having the delivery person just leave the food at your door. It is a sign of the times…both resourceful & sad.

 

Super Spreader

As time has dragged on people have become weary of everything that has happened. They just want their lives back. So folks have begun to rebel, whether it be college students gathering for a keg party, churches ignoring protocols to worship together, or families having a birthday party or celebrating Thanksgiving. Unfortunately it only takes one contagious person to spread The Sickness to everyone they may have encountered at such an event.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

 

 

Social Distancing. It seems like an oxymoron, and I suppose it kind of is. Last St. Patrick’s Day I went to a local restaurant for some tasty Irish vittles, and they had a popular local band there doing an acoustic set. It had been announced that the next day all bars, restaurants, & various other businesses would be closing for awhile. At the time no one knew what we might be facing, but there was a vibe there that night. I was by myself but struck up a conversation with a couple sitting next to me. I enjoy live music and became a bit verklempt because I had a feeling I might not be able to have that experience again for a bit. I enjoyed the energy in the room even if I didn’t personally know anyone. In a strange way I have felt almost lucky these past several months because I haven’t been missing anything. I’ve been laid up & unable to go anywhere, but there hasn’t been anywhere to go anyway. Someday in the not-too-distant future I will be healed and able to get back out & about, and I hope soon thereafter normalcy will return. I don’t want to stay six feet away from people. I want handshakes & hugs. I want to go to a crowded bar or the local theater just up the street and enjoy live music. I want to feel good vibes again. And when that day comes I just might weep.

 

 

 

 

Let’s take another break. Please stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of The Sammy Awards…coming soon!!

 

 

The 2020 Sammy Awards – Part I

Awards Season has arrived!!

Greetings Manoverse, and welcome to the 2020 Sammy Awards!! It is with no small amount of trepidation that we take a look back at a year that most would likely just as soon forget, but after taking a hiatus from these awards in 2019 the decision has been made to press on. We’ll do the best we can to do our little tongue-in-cheek review of all the ups & downs of the past twelve months with as much positivity & mirth as possible, while also treating certain subjects with the respect & gravitas they deserve.

 

This actually seems like the perfect time to bring back The Sammys. After all, it’s a fake awards show, so there is no social distancing or masks required, although if you feel it necessary to get tested for Covid-19 when we are done that is your decision. This year’s show would obviously be broadcast on Zoom and perhaps Facebook Live, although those damn “fact” checkers might be a problem (thanks to that affluent douchebag Zuckerberg). At any rate, as always, we consider The Sammy Awards to be much cooler that The Oscars or The Grammys, and much more relevant than anything presented on MTV.  We originally invited the lovely Hilaria Baldwin (wife of actor Alec Baldwin) to be our host, but unfortunately she is quarantining after contact tracing determined she may have been exposed to The Coronavirus (or, as she is calling it, The “Spanish” Flu). Fortunately we found a last minute replacement (actually a major upgrade), and it is a huge honor to welcome an Academy Award nominated actor and star of legendary films like Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, & Scrooged. Please give a warm welcome to Bill Murray!!

 

After an amusing opening monologue from our esteemed host it is time to present our first award. To do that we are thrilled to welcome back not only a former NFL lineman & Hall-of-Fame broadcaster, but the winner of multiple Sammy Awards who recently departed ESPN (he’s a white male so he no longer aligns with their wokeness) after two decades of awesomeness. Eat a donut in honor of Mike Golic Sr!! And the nominees are:

 

 

The Thrill of Victory Award

 

Las Vegas Raiders

I’m not sure on field expectations were all that high for the Raiders coming off a 7-9 record in 2019, their third losing season in a row. However, everyone associated with the team and the entire fanbase had to be psyched about a change of scenery to Sin City. Then Covid-19 happened, so instead of playing in front of 65,000 screaming fans at the brand spanking new Allegiant Stadium the Raiders got to play in an empty or nearly empty venue (the rules seemingly differed for each team and changed weekly). But while that is sad there is hope for the future. The Raiders finished 8-8, nearly making the playoffs. America’s Playground will bounce back, and there are strong reasons to believe their new hometown football team will be part of the recovery.

 

LSU’s National Championship

It seems like a lifetime ago, but the Bayou Bengals beat Clemson on January 13, 2020 to claim their fourth National Championship in football. Unfortunately they were unable to follow-up on that success this season and finished with a 5-5 record.

 

Kansas City Wins Super Bowl

QB Patrick Mahomes was the 10th choice in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, meaning nine teams passed on him. In just his third season Mahomes made those nine teams look totally foolish when he led the Chiefs to a win over the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl to claim their first Lombardi Trophy in a half century.

 

Dodgers Win World Series

The Sickness negatively affected sports in a multitude of ways in 2020, and one result was a truncated 60 game MLB regular season. To be honest I was facing my own challenges last summer and paid very little attention to baseball, but the Dodgers beat the Tampa Bay Rays in a World Series that no hardcore fan outside of Los Angeles will ever remember with much reverence or respect. Congrats I guess.

 

Brady’s Move

Regardless of what the talking heads say I will never recognize Tom Brady as the GOAT, but I was thankful to see him leave the hated New England Patriots after two decades and six Super Bowl victories. His move to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave us the opportunity to find out who was more responsible for the Pats’ success…Brady or head coach Bill Belichick. The result?? New England missed the playoffs for only the second time since 2000 (the first was 2008 when Brady went down with a torn ACL in the opener and missed the rest of the season), while Tampa finished 11-5 and will be making their first playoff appearance since 2007. I have to admit I am somewhat surprised how it all shook out.

 

Lebron Gets Another Ring

The NBA had their season interrupted by The Sickness and had to play the entirety of their playoffs in a “bubble” in Orlando, FL. At the end of the day the Los Angeles Lakers defeated the Miami Heat to win their 17th title. Lebron James is now 36 years old and has played in the NBA nearly half his life, winning four rings in the process. He may not be the greatest player on the planet anymore, but he’s still better that 95% of the league.

 

Tyson’s Comeback

Mike Tyson last fought professionally in 2005, losing to a guy no one had ever heard of. It was an ignoble ending to the legendary career of The Baddest Man on the Planet. Flash ahead to November 2020 when Tyson fought an 8 round exhibition against former Olympian Roy Jones Jr. The bout was scored a draw, but the sad part is that it took place at L.A.’s Staples Center in front of no fans. Under normal circumstances one can reasonably assume a raucous packed house would have made the event truly special, but it wasn’t to be. At 54 years of age it is unlikely that Tyson will receive many more opportunities, but it would be great to see him go out with a big crowd in attendance.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

The Kansas City Chiefs. 2020 was a pretty tough year for sports. Events were cancelled. Players & coaches tested positive for the virus and had to miss games. Seasons were abbreviated. Stadiums were empty. Fortunately KC won their championship before all of that was an issue. And it probably isn’t the last time they’ll be competing in the Super Bowl. The Chiefs look like they could be a team to be reckoned with for many years to come.

 

We feel like 2020 was such a traumatic experience that some cathartic laughter might be a good idea. To help us do that it is a pleasure to welcome back God’s Comic Brad Stine!!

 

 

After Brad Stine has tickled our funny bone with his unique brand of clean comedy it is time to present our next award. To do that it is a pleasure to welcome one of America’s funniest character actors. He has had roles in a variety of television shows, including Hearts Afire (a 90’s sitcom starring John Ritter & Markie Post), Reba, and Boston Legal, but his fame rose to new heights during the pandemic by way of hilarious & heartwarming viral videos, providing us all a chuckle when we really needed it. Please show some love for Leslie Jordan!! And the nominees are:

 

 

Favorite Viral Videos

 

Tipsy Bartender

Skyy John is an actor/bartender from The Bahamas. Apparently he has been doing Tipsy Bartender videos for several years but I am a little late to the party. The videos themselves are pretty short, but they are the perfect blend of informative & entertaining. I knew I was going to like Skyy when he made his affection for blue curacao (an orange liqueur) evident because Blue Hawaiians were one of my favorite drinks back in college.

 

Family Feud

Nothing is more of an indicator of the shifting winds of entertainment than Family Feud. How so?? Well, while I am rarely inclined to sit down & watch an entire half hour episode I’m more than happy to watch brief videos highlighting a particularly amusing question or a totally stupid answer that elicits a hilarious response from host Steve Harvey. I’m old enough to remember original host Richard Dawson kissing every female contestant on the lips…something that would be considered weird & inappropriate by modern standards. Instead, Harvey’s charm & comedic chops make the program entertaining, especially in small bites.

  

BatDad

Back in 2013 Blake Wilson purchased a Batman mask from a Target in Florida and began posting Vines of himself interacting with his wife & children while wearing the mask and talking in the low pitched throatiness popularized by Christian Bale’s version of The Caped Crusader in the Dark Knight movies. Seven years later Vine no longer exists and BatDad is divorced from his seemingly unamused wife Jen, but the videos are still going strong.

 

The Holderness Family

Penn & Kim Holderness used to be talking heads on TV news programs, but soon after posting some videos on YouTube in 2013 they became a lot more famous. Their videos consist of parody songs and other comedy bits poking fun at slice-of-life Americana like Hallmark Christmas movies & of course dealing with quarantine. They are quite talented & funny, and their two children seem to enjoy being part of the show.

 

The Williams Sisters on Instagram

Kimberly Williams-Paisley & her sister Ashley Williams are both actresses. These days they mostly star in television movies, but Kimberly’s very first acting gig was in 1991’s Father of the Bride (one of my favorite movies of all time), while I still remember Ashley from the sitcom Good Morning Miami that only lasted one season almost twenty years ago. During the pandemic they have been going live on Instagram once a week, and it’s just a conversation between two sisters. They cover a wide array of subjects, laughing hysterically the entire time. Ashley especially has an infectious laugh. I have come to appreciate simplicity, and the charm of two sisters just having fun talking to each other and letting us eavesdrop is undeniable.

 

 

and The Sammy goes to…..

 

Tipsy Bartender. I don’t even drink anymore. I sowed my wild oats in college, but now, more than two decades later, you are much more likely to see me drinking skim milk or iced tea than liquor, and my favorite kind of beer is root beer. Mixology has always intrigued me though, so I enjoy watching various concoctions being created even if I know darn well I’ll never drink it myself. It’s kind of like my affection for The Food Network despite the fact that my own culinary efforts rarely go beyond throwing something in the microwave or cooking spaghetti then tossing a jar of sauce over it. If you enjoy an occasional adult beverage these videos are fascinating and a lot of fun.

 

 

Our next award is a very special honor being given to a person who has been an influence in my life for thirty years. To make the presentation we are pleased to welcome two young ladies who have likely looked to our honoree as an inspiration in their own careers as political pundits and will carry on his legacy for many years to come. Please give a warm welcome to Candace Owens & Tomi Lahren!!

 

 

The Duffer-Herrell Lifetime Achievement Award

 

Rush Limbaugh

 

When I was in college my best friend Greg gave me a book entitled The Way Things Ought to Be. I had heard a little bit about Rush Limbaugh, but I thought he was a shock jock that I’d not find entertaining at all. I was wrong. I read Rush’s book and it was a revelation. He made so much sense, opening my eyes to ideas I’d never known I always believed. Over the next two decades I was an avid listener of his daily talk show, and really enjoyed the TV show he hosted all too briefly in the early 90’s. I am well aware that many people don’t like Rush at all, but I think a lot of those folks are misinformed. Though he has mellowed in recent years I readily admit that back in the day he could be quite abrasive, oftentimes intentionally offensive, and definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. However, I believe his reputation for being outrageous has always been overblown. More than once I have encountered people who claim they hated Rush but hadn’t actually listened to his program…something I’ve always found to be intellectually dishonest. You might not agree with his political beliefs, but Rush is hardly Satan’s evil minion. To be honest I think he was ahead of his time. People weren’t quite ready for his brutal honesty, refusal to kowtow to opposing ideas, and faux bravado three decades ago, but now everybody is copying his shtick and turning the volume to 11. Rush was a major player in the conservative movement of the mid-1990’s, and the Clinton years when Slick Willie was the perfect adversary for Rush to play off of were definitely the golden age of his reign over talk radio. I haven’t listened to his show all that much the past several years because I am not as into politics as I used to be. I no longer have the stomach for intense debate with people who will never try to see my point of view no matter how conciliatory I am toward them. The ballyhooed mean-spiritedness assigned to Rush pales in comparison to how divisive and malicious people can be these days. He’s kind of like the classic horror movies from the 1930’s…sure they are horror films, but they aren’t nearly as gory & violent as modern horror films. In that same way Rush’s alleged malevolence almost seems quaint when compared to what is presented every day & night on the cable news channels. At any rate, I spent countless hours thru the years learning from Rush, being entertained by him, and awakening to the indoctrination pervasive in so many powerful entities that shape & dictate our lives. Sadly Rush Limbaugh’s time in the public arena is coming to a close. He is battling lung cancer and has already lived longer than expected. I am sure there are people who will celebrate his demise, but I am not one of them. If you are I will say a prayer for you. To Rush all I can say is godspeed and thank you for everything you have meant in my life.

 

 

This feels like a good place to pause, but please stay tuned for Part 2 of The Sammy Awards…coming soon!!

 

The 30 Day Film Challenge – Part 1

“Movies touch our hearts and awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places, they open doors and minds. Movies are the memories of our life time, we need to keep them alive.” – Martin Scorsese

 

 

 

As with the 30 Day Song Challenge I do not have the patience to post once per day for an entire month, and fortunately I don’t need to since I make the rules in this space. I feel like I’ve probably written entirely too much about movies here over the years, but it’s a subject I enjoy and right now I need as much to smile about as possible. 2020 has been a bumpy ride for many, so I don’t want to be selfish. Having said that, the past few months have been brutal for me personally, so I’m thankful for an outlet that allows me to take my mind off things, atleast for a little while. The vast majority of these were easy answers, though I had to ponder a few, and in some cases I found the questions a bit puzzling. That’s why I like providing context…it provides some insight into my thought process, which is not only helpful for you but something I find constructive as well. Once again I have broken this project into two parts for readability. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

1       The first film you remember watching…

Coal Miner’s Daughter

To be honest I’m not entirely comfortable with this answer. Coal Miner’s Daughter was released when I was eight years old, and I’m pretty sure I watched movies before then. However, our local mall (complete with multiplex cinema) wasn’t built until a few years later, so anything I saw before had to be at a drive-in or on television, and nothing specific comes to mind. However, I have a clear memory of going to the drive-in with my parents & sister to see Coal Miner’s Daughter.

 

 

2       A film you like that starts with the first letter of your first name…

Sleepless in Seattle

I really like alliteration…it’s fun. I actually had a date…with a woman…to see this movie. It might be the last real date I’ve had lol (I don’t even remember her name though, which speaks badly of me, her, or both of us). Anyway, Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan are screen magic, and Sleepless might be my favorite film of theirs.

 

 

3       A film that has more than five words…

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy

I’m not going to dive into a marketing lecture, but the vast majority of films have short titles…1-3 words. It’s just easier for people to remember, among other things. I really had to think about movies I’ve enjoyed with longer titles, but once Anchorman popped into my head it became an easy choice. Stay classy!!

 

 

4       A film with a number in the title…

Ocean’s Eleven

So many choices!! However, I’m a big fan of the Ocean’s Trilogy. Eleven is a remake of a 1960 Rat Pack classic, and I actually enjoy the remake more than the original, partly because the ending of the newer film is so much more satisfying than the older one. Ocean’s Twelve is okay, though certainly the weakest of the trilogy. Ocean’s Thirteen rebounded with the addition of Al Pacino to the cast. I highly recommend binge watching all three movies, something I’ve done many times.

 

 

5       A film where a character has a job you want…

The Shining

Okay, so he is a psychopath…but don’t forget that Jack Torrance (as portrayed brilliantly by Jack Nicholson) is also a writer.

 

 

6       Your favorite animated film…

The Toy Story Series

This is tough. There are so many animated classics that we all enjoyed as kids, but I have to ask myself, would I sit down and watch many of those old movies now…as an adult?? I suppose the occasional nostalgic mood may hit, but generally we look at such things differently when we’re older. However, the four Toy Story movies are more recent, have quite the memorable voice cast, the animation is top notch, and the plot is written to be enjoyed by all ages.

 

 

7       A film that you will never get tired of…

Casablanca

There are dozens of movies I could (and do) watch over & over & over again. I tend to prefer older movies that I grew up enjoying to most of the pathetic excuses for entertainment Hollywood churns out these days, and Casablanca is as pleasurable to watch now as it ever was. They don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

 

 

8       A film where you liked the soundtrack more…

Saturday Night Fever and The Big Chill

Two movies immediately sprang to mind and I’m not going to choose between them. The Big Chill is about a bunch of middle-age 60’s radicals gathering together in the midst of the conservative revolution of the early 80’s to attend the funeral of an old schoolmate who committed suicide. The film itself is just fine, but the soundtrack…wow. Smokey Robinson. The Temptations. Marvin Gaye. Three Dog Night. Aretha Franklin. If you like Motown you can’t help but dig one of the best soundtracks ever produced. Saturday Night Fever not only skyrocketed John Travolta to superstardom, but it defined the disco era. The soundtrack relies heavily on The Bee Gees, but that’s okay because they kick ass. Disco may be dead, but it had its time in the spotlight and this particular album may have been the high point.

 

 

9       A film you hate that everyone else liked…

Pulp Fiction

I watched it once…I just don’t get it. Travolta is cool. Samuel L. Jackson?? Very cool. I’m a big Bruce Willis fan. Tarantino just isn’t my kind of director. I can’t think of a single one of his movies I’ve enjoyed.

 

 

10     Your favorite superhero film…

Batman

I’ve said it a thousand times…I wasn’t a comic book kid. Outside of the three big superheroes (Batman, Superman, & Spiderman) I couldn’t possibly care less. The only “Marvel Cinematic Universe” films I’ve seen are the two Spiderman movies. I may or may not ever watch the rest of them. However, I do love me some Batman, and I really like the 1989 film starring Michael Keaton as The Caped Crusader. Keaton & Adam West (who portrayed Batman in the 60’s TV show) are easily my favorites, and it didn’t hurt Tim Burton’s movie to have Jack Nicholson’s larger-than-life portrayal of The Joker.

 

 

11     A film you like from your least favorite genre…

Halloween

Horror flicks aren’t generally my cup o’ tea. However, John Carpenter’s original Halloween is a classic. From the brilliant opening sequence to the legendary theme music to the amusingly ostentatious performance of Donald Pleasence as a Captain Ahab-esque psychiatrist, well…it’s nearly flawless. It’s hard to believe that what has become an annual October institution was produced on a shoestring budget of just over $300k (in comparison, Jaws, which was produced three years earlier, had a budget of $13 million).

 

 

12     A film that you hate from your favorite genre…

Holmes & Watson

This one is a double whammy. I’m a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes novellas & short stories, and I’ve also enjoyed the work of both Will Ferrell & John C. Reilly. When I first heard that the duo were going to tackle Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s fabled crime solvers I was excited to see what kind of hilarious spin the stars of Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby could put on the story, but the result was immensely disappointing. Rotten Tomatoes gives Holmes & Watson an atrocious 10% score, and it won the Razzie for Worst Picture of 2018.

 

 

13     A film that “puts you in deep thoughts”…

Groundhog Day

First, I must state that I detest the way this is stated, like a nine year old wrote it. Secondly, though I’m not above thinking deeply I rarely run across a movie that makes me do so. It just doesn’t seem to be Hollywood’s thing, and sadly I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg. Are crappy special effects movies with inane action sequences & insufferable explosions the norm because the populace demands it, or have we been conditioned to be dumbed down & accept such mediocrity?? I suppose it’s a little of both. At any rate, in 1993 Bill Murray & director Harold Ramis teamed up to give us the antithesis of such tedious garbage, and what they accomplished is far more than your typical comedy. Groundhog Day is existential. It is profound on a level that neither Murray nor Ramis likely intended. I watch it every February 2nd, and it always makes me ponder life.

 

 

14     A film that “gave you depression”…

The Perfect Storm

Another poorly worded turn of phrase. Here’s the thing: I don’t watch movies to get depressed. Trust me…my real life is miserable enough. Why on God’s green Earth would I pay money to have alleged entertainment make me sad?? It’s why I lean so heavily toward comedy. Having said that, occasionally something sneaks up and gives me all the feels. When I first watched The Perfect Storm I had NO IDEA it was based on a true story. It was on television and I was bored, so I gave it a whirl. It is well-written with good performances so I was quickly hooked. At the film’s conclusion I fully expected the ship’s crew to be miraculously rescued…but, of course, they are not. I’m a little slow sometimes, but eventually I learned that this actually happened…these were real people who died. The film does a superb job of conveying the very tangible danger faced by fishermen every day, and I have developed tremendous respect for those who put their lives on the line to put food on our table. Some years after my initial viewing of the movie (which I have watched countless times) I decided to read the book on which it is based, and I must opine that it is the rare case where the film is far superior.

 

 

15     A film that makes you feel happy…

Bull Durham

I suppose numerous comedies make me happy, but since it’s summertime and baseball just began after a virus related delay of several months Bull Durham popped into my head. Sports films are delightful…sports comedies are sublime. One major barometer I use when judging movies is whether or not I am still glad to watch them many years & multiple viewings later, and more than three decades later I find Bull Durham just as enjoyable as I ever did.

 

 

 

Okay folks, let’s take a break. Stay tuned for Part 2!!

100 Memorable Movie Characters…Part 2

“Movies touch our hearts, awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places…open doors & minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime.”  –  Martin Scorsese

We’re going to forego a verbose preamble today and jump right into the fray. If you have not read Part 1 please go back and do so at your leisure. As always I appreciate everyone who stops by to read the things that are written here, and your feedback is welcome.

90           Ma & Pa Kettle (various films)

Ma & Pa Kettle starred in ten films from 1947-57. They are simple country bumpkins raising their brood of 16 kids on the family farm, and the movies put them into various fish-out-of-water scenarios like trips to New York, Hawaii, & Paris, as well as winning a “house of the future” in a contest. I seem to recall that the Kettle films were shown on Saturday morning television with some frequency during my childhood. That was way before channels like TCM & AMC, so I assume it had to be a local syndication type of deal. I also have a vague recollection that it was my Dad who enjoyed watching Ma & Pa Kettle and introduced me to the movies.

Quotes

“It may be a good day for you, but it ain’t for Pa. All the poor man wanted was a new tobacco pouch and instead he won a house he didn’t want and he got a bad sunburn.” (Ma)

“You do all the barkin’, but it’s me that’s always in the doghouse.” (Pa)

“You mean, Pa & Me’s got to support all our kids and the government too?” (Ma)

“Pa, you’re lazier than that old hound dog we used to have.” “Which one?” “The one that used to lean against the wall when she barked.”

89           Thelma Dickinson & Louise Sawyer (Thelma & Louise)

Full disclosure…I believe I’ve only watched Thelma & Louise once, but that was enough. The duo are southern ladies taking a girls’ trip to escape from their mundane existence, but things go awry when a drunken rabble-rouser tries to rape Thelma and Louise kills him. Of course we all know that in TV & movies no one ever does the smart thing by calling the police…instead they get spooked & go on the run, which is the foundation for the adventure that follows. Nearly three decades later many of us still refer to mischievous gal pals as Thelma & Louise.

Quotes

“You said you ‘n’ me was gonna get out of town and for once just really let our hair down. Well darlin’, look out ’cause my hair is comin’ down!” (Thelma)

“You get what you settle for.” (Louise)

“He kinda prides himself on being infantile.” (Thelma)

“Good morning everybody, this is a robbery. Now if nobody loses their head, nobody will lose their head. Simon says everybody lay down on the floor, right away, right away, except you sir. You’ll have a story to tell your friends, that or a tag on your toe, it’s your decision.” (Thelma)

“I feel really awake. I don’t recall ever feeling this awake. You know? Everything looks different now. You feel like that? You feel like you got something to live for now?” (Thelma)

88           Raymond Babbitt (Rain Man)

I’m not sure anyone in history has done more to promote awareness of autism than Raymond Babbitt. Dustin Hoffman won his second Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Raymond, a savant whose deceased father left him millions that his scheming brother is trying to get from him. It is rare for Tom Cruise to be outshined in any film, but Raymond’s charming blend of pathos, humor, & vulnerability does the trick.

Quotes

“I’m an excellent driver.”

“13 minutes to Judge Wapner and The People’s Court.”

“K-mart sucks.”

87           Dr. Frank N. Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)

Some films have broad appeal, and I assume that is what the powers-that-be are going for most of the time. However, there is no shortage of movies that are focused on a rather specific target audience. I haven’t seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show since I was in college, sitting out in a field late at night throwing rice & toilet paper at the screen, but that’s okay since it is exactly the kind of weird, drunken, relatively innocuous, & completely stupid experience one should have at 19, because if that’s how you spend your weekend when your 35 or 50 it becomes a bit disturbing. Dr. Furter describes himself as a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania”, which seems like a fitting description. Unforgettable name?? Check. Unique outfit?? Check. Quirky as all get-out?? You bet. Actor Tim Curry has been nominated for Tony Awards, starred in films like The Hunt for Red OctoberHome Alone 2: Lost in New York, and portrayed Pennywise in the TV miniseries of Stephen King’s It, but he will most likely always be remembered as Dr. Frank N. Furter.

Quotes

“Tonight, my unconventional conventionalists, you are about to witness a new breakthrough in biochemical research, and paradise is to be mine!”

“Don’t be upset…it was a mercy killing. He had a certain naïve charm, but no muscle.”

86           Mick “Crocodile” Dundee (Crocodile Dundee)

Let’s face it…the only reason any of us in the good ol’ USA has ever requested for someone to “throw another shrimp on the barbie” is because Crocodile Dundee taught us what that means in 1986. Outback Steakhouse was created in Tampa, FL two years after the film’s release in hopes of capitalizing on America’s newfound fascination with Australia. Two Dundee sequels were produced, but neither had the magic of the original, a classic fish-out-of-water tale featuring a most unconventional protagonist.

Quotes

“Get on the right side of the road you pelican!”

“That’s not a knife…THAT’S a knife.”

“Well, you see, Aborigines don’t own the land…they belong to it. It’s like their mother. See those rocks? Been standing there for 600 million years…still be there when you & I are gone. So arguing over who owns them is like two fleas arguing over who owns the dog they live on.”

“Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. New York must be the friendliest place on earth.”

85           Tommy DeVito (Goodfellas)

Not too long ago I saw a poll on Facebook asking about the best mob movie and was stunned when Goodfellas beat out The Godfather, because in my humble opinion The Godfather cannot be touched. Having said that, it is a rather unfair comparison. The Godfather is an Shakespearean fantasy with lots of Hollywood style & polish, whereas Goodfellas is more raw & down-to-earth. Inasmuch as The Mafia still exists in modern America I assume Goodfellas is probably a more accurate portrayal, but for me that doesn’t necessarily equal entertainment value. It’s kind of the same thing as people who fawn all over Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy because of its gritty realism, while I lean toward the escapism of the Burton/Schumacher Batman flicks from the late 80’s/early 90’s. At any rate, actor Joe Pesci had done Raging Bull in 1980 and added some life to the Lethal Weapon franchise in 1989 so Goodfellas wasn’t his first rodeo, but Tommy DeVito has become one of his defining roles (we’ll get to another a bit later). DeVito is loosely based on real life gangster “Two Gun Tommy” DiSimone, a NY City gangster who “disappeared” in January 1979. Two Gun Tommy was much younger, not to mention physically bigger & stronger, than the diminutive, middle-aged, fast-talking tough guy depicted in the film, but other mobsters have said that Pesci’s portrayal…for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor…is otherwise fairly accurate.

Quotes

“What do you mean I’m funny? What do you mean? You mean the way I talk? What? You mean, let me understand this, ’cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?”

84           Larry Talbot (The Wolf Man)

Y’all know that I’m not a horror movie fan, but for some reason I love the old Universal monsters from the 1930’s & 40’s. Talbot is a mild-mannered man who returns to Wales after two decades in America to reconcile with his estranged father. He is bitten by a werewolf while trying to rescue a damsel in distress, and thereafter becomes a werewolf himself. After committing a series of murders he is eventually bludgeoned to death by his own father, who doesn’t realize The Wolf Man is his son. Lon Chaney Jr.’s portrayal of Talbot as quiet & reserved and emotionally tortured by his infirmity is the perfect contrast to the ferocity of the beast.

Quotes

“You think I don’t know the difference between a wolf and a man? You’re insane! I tell you, I killed a wolf! A plain, ordinary wolf! Don’t try to make me believe that I killed a man when I know that I killed a wolf!”

83           Tony Montana (Scarface)

I don’t rate Scarface as highly as some simply because I tend not to like movies about crime & drugs…it’s just not my kind of entertainment. Having said that, there’s no denying that Tony Montana is a memorable character. Tony arrives in Miami from Cuba and starts his new life as a dishwasher. A few years later he is a wealthy drug lord with an unhealthy cocaine addiction. As is the case with such characters there is a lot of bloodshed, ultimately ending (spoiler alert) with Tony face down in a fountain after having been shot in the back by a rival’s henchman. Critics like to attach meaning to films like Scarface, seeing it as some sort of allegory about rising & falling, the excesses of the American Dream, or a commentary on criminal avarice, but I prefer to learn such lessons without all the violence & profanity. Italian-American Pacino seems like an odd choice to portray a Cuban, and I’m not sure that would fly in our newly woke culture just a few decades later. Interestingly, Robert DeNiro was the first choice for the role of Tony Montana but he declined the opportunity.

Quotes

“This is paradise. This is paradise, I’m tellin’ you. I shoulda come here 10 years ago. I’d have been a millionaire by this time. By this time, I’d have had my own boat, my own car, my own golf course.”

“Me, I always tell the truth…even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through! Better get outta his way!”

“This country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the woman.”

“Okay, you little cockroaches… come on! You wanna play games? Okay, I can play with you. Come on! Okay, you wanna play rough?!?!??  Okay! SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”

82           Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard (The Fugitive)

Other than its love of sequels the other way that Hollywood plays it safe by not being particularly innovative is to recycle old television shows and bring them…or atleast the central premise…to the big screen, with the results being decidedly mixed. The Dukes of Hazzard, Leave it to Beaver, & The Wild Wild West weren’t good movies, while The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, & Charlie’s Angels were decent enough. One of the best movie adaptations of a TV show is The Fugitive, with Harrison Ford portraying erroneously convicted Dr. Richard Kimble. While the television show had Dr. Kimble doggedly pursued across the country by local police Lt. Philip Gerard, the film kicks it up a notch by making the hunter no nonsense U.S Marshal Sam Gerard, although the quest is essentially limited to Chicago. Tommy Lee Jones won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Gerard, and became the focus of the story in a much inferior sequel a few years later. In the movie neither Kimble nor Gerard resemble the television characters they are based on all that much, but in this case the adaptation is actually better than the original.

Quotes

“Let that be a lesson to you, boys & girls. Don’t ever argue with the Big Dog, because the Big Dog is always right.”

“Listen up, ladies & gentlemen! Our fugitive has been on the run for 90 minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is 4 miles per hour and that gives us a radius of 6 miles. What I want out of each & every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive’s name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him.”

81           Walter Sobchak (The Big Lebowski)

Lebowski is a weird movie, but it sure is fun to watch when a particular mood strikes. One of the key reasons for its success is John Goodman’s portrayal of Walter, the foul-mouthed, slightly unhinged, but loyal best buddy of the film’s protagonist. I’ve never been a fan of Goodman’s infamous TV show Roseanne in any of its incarnations, but I sure have enjoyed his big screen career. Raising Arizona. Everybody’s All-American. The Hangover Part III. They may not be transcendent films, but they’re enjoyable enough and better because Goodman is in them. Walter is most definitely second fiddle in Lebowksi, but that’s okay…great movies need supporting characters that add a colorful layer to the story, and in this case the mission is certainly accomplished.

Quotes

“Donny, you’re out of your element! Dude, the Chinaman is not the issue here!”

“Nihilists!  I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

“Lady, I got buddies who died face down in the muck so that you & I could enjoy this family restaurant!”

“You want a toe? I can get you a toe. Believe me. There are ways, Dude.”

“Life does not start and stop at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit!”

“You know, Dude, I myself dabbled in pacifism once. Not in ‘Nam of course.”

“We’re talking about unchecked aggression here, Dude.”

“Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”

80           Captain Louis Renault (Casablanca)

¾ of a century after its theatrical release Casablanca is still regarded as one of the best movies ever produced. There are multiple reasons for that, but one of them is Capt. Renault, a cynical & slightly corrupt French policeman. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco on the coast of Africa. During World War II it was a vital strategic port, and since a large chunk of Europe was controlled by the Nazis travel was limited, hence the importance of the film’s “letters of transit” (a true film MacGuffin…in reality no such documents existed). Capt. Renault plays all sides, loyal only to his own needs & desires…or so we are led to believe until the film’s conclusion. He isn’t a clichéd movie bad guy…he seems pleasant enough, and in fact has some of the more blithe dialogue. It is rare for an alleged villain to add levity to the story, but that is exactly what Renault does, which is probably why I like him. Actor Claude Rains played more conventional antagonists in films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, and earned four Academy Award nominations in his career, but Casablanca was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the audience and Cpt. Renault.

Quotes

“I’m making out the report now.  We haven’t quite decided whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape.”

“It is a little game we play.  They put it on the bill, I tear up the bill.  It is very convenient.”

“I have no conviction, if that’s what you mean.  I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.

“How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce.”

“You mustn’t underestimate American blundering. I was with them when they “blundered” into Berlin in 1918.”

“I told my men to be especially destructive. You know how that impresses Germans.”

“Everybody is to leave here immediately! This cafe is closed until further notice. Clear the room, at once! I am shocked…shocked…to find that gambling is going on in here!”

“Well, Rick, you’re not only a sentimentalist, but you’ve become a patriot.”

“Round up the usual suspects!”

79           Jack Dawson & Rose DeWitt-Bukater (Titanic)

For several years Titanic was the highest grossing film of all time, and it swept thru the 1997 awards season like a tornado. Critics & the general populace both love it, but one of the few condemnations I seem to recall hearing back then was that the main focus wasn’t on actual people who lost their lives in the infamous tragedy. Instead the spotlight was given to two fictional characters in Jack & Rose. They are essentially a riff on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. He’s a good-natured American guy from the wrong side of the tracks heading home to Wisconsin, while she is a prim & proper British debutante who hates her rigid life. In the course of three hours we become invested in them individually and in their love story. They may not be based on real people, but as composite characters I believe they are solid representatives of the 1500 souls lost on that catastrophic night.

Quotes

“I’m the king of the world!” (Jack)

“Do you know of Dr. Freud, Mr. Ismay? His ideas about the male preoccupation with size might be of particular interest to you.” (Rose)

“I’m not an idiot. I know how the world works. I’ve got ten bucks in my pocket. I have nothing to offer you and I know that. I understand. But I’m too involved now. You jump, I jump, remember? I can’t turn away without knowing you’ll be all right.” (Jack)

“I’m flying, Jack!” (Rose)

“I got everything I need right here with me. I got air in my lungs, a few blank sheets of paper. I mean, I love waking up in the morning not knowing what’s gonna happen or, who I’m gonna meet, where I’m gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. You don’t know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you… to make each day count.” (Jack)

“Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls. Wearing this…wearing only this.” (Rose)

“I don’t know about you, but I intend to go write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line about all this.” (Jack)

“Don’t you do that…don’t you say your goodbyes. Not yet, do you understand me? You’re gonna get out of here, you’re gonna go on, and you’re gonna make lots of babies, and you’re gonna watch them grow. You’re gonna die an old… an old woman warm in her bed, not here, not this night. Not like this, do you understand me? Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me. It brought me to you, and I’m thankful for that, Rose. I’m thankful. You must do me this honor. You must promise me that you’ll survive, that you won’t give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise.” (Jack)

78           Jenny Curran (Forrest Gump)

A lot of subtext can be read into Forrest Gump. Some believe that Jenny…the lifelong friend of the film’s simpleminded hero who was abused as a young girl, becomes a hippie, descends into a life of drugs & prostitution, and ends up dying of (we assume) a sexually transmitted disease…is meant to represent the counterculture & upheaval of the 1960’s that many consider the loss of America’s innocence. She is the darkness in contrast to Forrest’s patriotic optimism. I’m not sure any of that symbolism was purposeful by the filmmakers, but the movie & the character stand on their own merits regardless of intent. Actress Robin Wright has had a solid career in Hollywood, from soap opera Santa Barbara in the mid-80’s to The Princess Bride in 1987 to the recently concluded Netflix hit House of Cards, but the sadness & vulnerability that defines Jenny has been her crowning achievement.

Quotes

“Dear God, make me a bird. So I could fly far. Far far away from here.”

“Listen, you promise me something, okay? Just if you’re ever in trouble, don’t be brave. You just run, okay? Just run away.”

77           Inspector Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry)

Clint Eastwood’s career has spanned over a half century, and he’s done everything from westerns to critically acclaimed dramas to the television show Rawhide. He’s even become an Academy Award winning director. However, Eastwood will always be most closely associated with his portrayal of Harry Callahan, a tough as nails San Francisco cop who plays by his own set of rules.

Quotes

“I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off,  you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”

76           Euphagenia Doubtfire (Mrs. Doubtfire)

The titular character in this film is actually a man in drag. Daniel Hillard is an itinerant voice actor whose uptight wife divorces him and gets custody of their three children. Instead of allowing their father to spend more time with them the career driven mother decides to hire a nanny, so Daniel dons a very convincing disguise and becomes an elderly British woman. The ruse works, and Mrs. Doubtfire allows Robin Williams’ comedic genius to shine.

Quotes

“Oh, sir! I saw it! Some angry member of the kitchen staff. Did you not tip them? Oh, the terrorists – they ran that way. It was a run-by fruiting.”

“I’m a hip old granny who can hip-hop, be-bop, dance ’til you drop, and yo, yo, make a wicked cup of cocoa.”

“Oh. Carpe dentum. Seize the teeth. Just shake them off, like a dog.”

“I found the best way to keep from smoking again and lighting up is to be around those who do smoke. I have to randomly ingest just a little bit of nicotine and it steels my wool.”

“He was quite fond of the drink. It was the drink that killed him. He was hit by a Guinness truck. So it was quite literally the drink that killed him.”

75           Woody Pride & Buzz Lightyear (The Toy Story Series)

The older I get the more I appreciate animated movies, especially since the technology has really advanced in the past couple of decades. It doesn’t hurt that Toy Story is a great example of a film that can be enjoyed by kids but is well written enough for adults to be entertained as well. Buzz Lightyear is a boisterous Space Ranger who doesn’t understand that he’s a toy. He is the newest action figure for young Andy, a birthday present from his mother. Buzz initially has a difficult time fitting in with the rest of Andy’s toys, especially Sheriff Woody, who is envious that he’s been replaced as Andy’s favorite plaything. Woody is the unofficial leader amongst all of Andy’s toys and feels threatened by Buzz at first, although the two eventually become pals.

Quotes

“To infinity and beyond!” (Buzz)

“I can’t stop Andy from growing up… but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” (Woody)

74           Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)

You killed his father…prepare to die!! Inigo Montoya is a Spanish swordsman on a mission. As a child he witnessed six fingered Count Rugen murder his father and has spent his life seeking vengeance. Initially he works with malevolent Vizzini to kidnap the lovely Buttercup, but eventually he becomes a good guy, teaming up with The Man in Black & giant Fezzik to rescue Buttercup. He also comes face to face with Rugen and finally gets his revenge.

Quotes

“He was a great swordmaker, my father. When the six-fingered man appeared and requested a special sword, my father took the job. He slaved a year before it was finished. The six-fingered man returned and demanded it, but at 1/10th his promised price. My father refused. Without a word, the six-fingered man slashed him through the heart. I loved my father. So naturally, I challenged his murderer to a duel. I failed. I was 11 years old. When I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of fencing. So, the next time we meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, ‘Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’”

73           Lt. Dan Taylor (Forrest Gump)

I was born with a birth defect and have been disabled my entire life, so the way I do things & live my life is entirely normal to me. However, I have known people who became disabled later in life thru some sort of calamity, and it isn’t uncommon for such folks to become understandably bitter & angry about their situation. Lt. Dan captures those emotions perfectly. He’s kind of a prick, but one can’t help but have empathy and root for him. Gary Sinise might be the most underrated actor of his generation, and it’s a shame that he didn’t win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Lt. Dan.

Quotes

“Now, you listen to me. We all have a destiny. Things don’t just happen…it’s all part of a plan.”

“There are two standing rules in this outfit. One, take care of your feet. Two, don’t go doing something stupid, like getting yourself killed.”

“You call this a storm?!?!?? Blow, you son of a bitch! It’s time for a showdown! You and me! I’m right here! Come and get me! You’ll never… sink… this…boat!!!!”

72           Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands)

I can’t say I’m on the Tim Burton bandwagon (I have zero interest in Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, or Sweeney Todd, Dark Shadows didn’t really work for me, and I’m thoroughly confused by The Nightmare Before Christmas), but I have enjoyed some of his work (the Batman films of the late 80’s/early 90’s are much more entertaining  than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy no matter what anyone says, and Beetlejuice is a modern classic), with Edward Scissorhands chief among them. Edward is the Pinocchio-esque creation of an elderly inventor whose kind & quiet demeanor is offset by the scary looking blades he has instead of hands. The inventor dies and Edward lives for years in an old gothic mansion until a nosy Avon lady stumbles upon him and tries to integrate him into her odd little neighborhood. There Edward falls in love with the lovely young Kim, which makes her boyfriend jealous. Drama & violence ensue, with Edward fleeing back to his mansion. The movie has a framing device with an older version of Kim telling her granddaughter the story and saying that she believes Edward is still alive & living in the old mansion. Johnny Depp seems like kind of a weird dude, but credit where it is due…the guy is a terrific actor and Edward Scissorhands is probably his best performance. Edward is a quiet character who expresses so much with his eyes & facial expressions, which I find captivating.

Quotes

“Mrs. Monroe showed me where the salon’s going to be. You could have a cosmetics counter. And then she showed me the back room where she took all of her clothes off.”

71           Mickey Goldmill (The Rocky Series)

Burgess Meredith had a long & successful career in Hollywood, doing a little bit of everything from portraying The Penguin in the 1960’s Batman TV show to playing Lenny in one of the best film adaptations of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice & Men, but to those of us of a certain age he’ll always be Rocky Balboa’s grizzled old manager in the first three Rocky films. Mickey sees Balboa’s potential and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Mickey encourages Rocky in his pursuit of heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, and does his best a few years later to steer the champ away from the menacing Clubber Lang. Of course Rocky is mauled by Lang, but Mickey’s death immediately afterward spurs his path to revenge.

Quotes

“I’m here to warn ya, that ya gotta be very careful about this shot that you got at the title. Because, like the Bible says, you ain’t gonna get a second chance. What ya need is a manager. I know, because I’ve been in this racket for fifty years. I’ve seen it all, all of it. I’ve got 21 stitches over this left eye. I’ve got 34 stitches over this eye. Do ya know that I had my nose busted 17 times. I got all this knowledge, I got it up here now, I wanna give it to you. I wanna take care of ya.  I wanna make sure that all this shit that happened to me doesn’t happen to you. Ya can’t buy what I’m gonna give ya. I’ve got pain and I’ve got experience.”

“You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder.”

“You got another shot. It’s a second shot at the, I don’t know, the biggest title in the world. And you’re gonna be swappin’ punches with the most dangerous fighter in the world. And just in case, you know, your brain ain’t workin’ so good, all this happens pretty soon and you ain’t ready. You’re nowhere near in any shape. So I say, you know, for God’s sake, why don’t you stand up and fight this guy hard?! Like ya done before? That was beautiful! But don’t lay down in front of him like this! Like, I don’t know, like some kind of mongrel or something. ‘Cause he’s gonna kick your face in pieces, you know that? That’s right. This guy just don’t wanna win, you know. He wants to bury ya, he wants to humiliate ya. He wants to prove to the whole world that you was nothing but some kind of a freak the first time out. And he said you’re a one-time lucky bum. Well, now, I don’t, I don’t wanna get mad, in a biblical place like this, but I think you’re a hell of a lot more than that, kid.”

“Why don’t you carry this? ‘Cause I liked you a lot better when you was carryin’ spit. ‘Cause the way you’re trainin’, you’re gonna end up pumping gas in Jersey somewhere!”

“You can’t win, Rock! This guy’ll kill ya to death inside of 3 rounds! He ain’t just another fighter. This guy is a wreckin’ machine, and he’s hungry! Hell, you ain’t been hungry since you won that belt! Three years ago, you were supernatural. You was hard and nasty. You had this cast iron jaw. But then, the worst thing happened to you that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized. Don’t worry, kid. You know, presidents retire, generals retire, horses retire, Man o War retired. They put him out to stud. That’s what you should’ve done, retire.”

70           Ace Ventura (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective)

Jim Carrey has gone on to become a fairly well-regarded actor who takes himself, his craft, and life in general way too seriously. However, 25 years ago he was an up & comer known for portraying Fire Marshal Bill on the TV sketch comedy show In Living Color. Critics hated Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but its 47% score on Rotten Tomatoes was trumped by a $72 million box office, making it the 12th highest grossing film of 1994 and earning a sequel just a year later. The sequel was an even bigger financial success but also more panned critically. Ace is a unique & unforgettable character because really, who would even conceive of “pet detective” being a thing?

Quotes

“Einhorn is Finkle. Finkle is Einhorn! Einhorn is a MAN!”

“Alrighty then!”

“Fiction can be fun! But I find the reference section much more enlightening. For instance, if you were to look up professional football’s all-time bonehead plays you might read about a Miami Dolphin kicker named Ray Finkle, who missed a 26-yard field goal in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XVII. What you WOULDN’T read about is how Ray Finkle lost his mind, was committed to a mental hospital, only to escape and join the police force under the assumed identity of a missing hiker, manipulating his way to the top in a diabolical scheme to get even with Dan Marino whom he blamed for the entire thing!”

69           Rhett Butler & Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind)

The on again/off again relationship between Rhett & Scarlett reminds me of every “will they or won’t they” antagonistic & tortured  “romance” we’ve seen play out on TV in my lifetime. In the real world such relationships are toxic, but within the scope of entertainment we find the tension & chemistry charming. Rhett Butler is a wealthy scoundrel who eventually enlists in the Confederate Army. Scarlett O’Hara is an entitled debutante, the self-centered daughter of a plantation owner. She spends most of the film pining for southern gentleman Ashley Wilkes, but he’s married to her cousin. Rhett is immediately smitten with Scarlett, but thru the years she marries two other men for all the wrong reasons, and both husbands end up dead. Scarlett goes through a lot of stuff over the course of the story, proving herself to be as resilient & tough as she is spoiled. Eventually Rhett & Scarlett marry & have a child, but she STILL can’t get over Ashley Wilkes. Rhett becomes fed up with her shenanigans and bolts, just as she finally figures out that he’s the man she truly needs. Vivien Leigh won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Scarlett, beating out the likes of Greta Garbo & Bette Davis in the process. Clark Gable wasn’t the original choice to portray Rhett…Gary Cooper turned down the part. Gable was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Robert Donat for his role in Goodbye, Mr. Chipps.

Quotes

“I’m very drunk and I intend on getting still drunker before this evening is over.” (Rhett)

“As God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again! (Scarlett)

“The war stopped being a joke when a girl like you doesn’t know how to wear the latest fashion.” (Rhett)

“Tara! Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all… tomorrow… is another day!” (Scarlett)

“Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.” (Rhett)

“I’m the only man over 16 and under 60 who’s around to show you a good time.” (Rhett)

“There’s one thing I do know, and that is that I love you Scarlett. In spite of you and me and the whole silly world going to pieces around us, I love you. Because we’re alike. Bad lots, both of us. Selfish & shrewd, but able to look things in the eyes as we call them by their right names.” (Rhett)

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (Rhett)

68           Robin Hood (various films)

Sir Robin of Loxley first appeared in English folk ballads in the 15th century and has popped in & out of our collective pop culture consciousness for over 500 years. An outlaw who steals from the rich & gives to the poor, lives in Sherwood Forest with his band of Merry Men (Friar Tuck, Little John, Will Scarlet, et al), battles the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham, & romances the lovely Maid Marian, Robin Hood has starred in about three dozen movies in the past hundred years. It is likely that he’d be a bit higher in our countdown if more of those films had been…noteworthy. Hollywood keeps trying, but despite their best efforts the only Robin Hood movie that has made much of an impact is 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, a classic starring Errol Flynn.

Quotes

“We Saxons have little to fatten on by the time your tax gatherers are through. Overtaxed, overworked, and paid off with a knife, a club, or a rope.”

“It’s time to put an end to this! Now, this forest is wide. It can shelter and clothe and feed a band of good, determined men – good swordsmen, good archers, good fighters. Men, if you’re willing to fight for our people, I want you! Are you with me?”

“What else do you call a man who takes advantage of the King’s misfortune to seize his power? Now, with the help of this sweet band of cutthroats, you’ll try to grind a ransom for him out of every helpless Saxon, a ransom that will be used, not to release Richard, but to buy your way to the throne. I’ll organize a revolt, exact a death for a death, and I’ll never rest until every Saxon in this shire can stand up free men, and strike a blow for Richard and England.”

67           Clark Griswold (The Vacation Series)

Five years ago The Manofesto ranked Clark Griswold 4th on our list of Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads, opining that despite being kind of a dufus it is obvious that he is a devoted family man. Chevy Chase has portrayed Clark in five films stretching all the way back to the original National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983. He’s an interesting character in that his occupation as an R&D expert in food additives & preservatives seems to indicate some level of intelligence, yet he is depicted as an ordinary putz in his personal life. Chase’s gift for physical comedy as well as how others play off him…with sort of an eye-rolling tolerance for his buffoonery…endears Clark to the audience, making us glad when everything turns out fine despite his persistent screw-ups.

Quotes

“This is no longer a vacation…it’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun! I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun! We’re all gonna have so much fuckin’ fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah out of your assholes!!! HAHAHA!!! I gotta be crazy; I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty Moose! Holy shit!!!”

“Hey, look kids…there’s Big Ben and there’s Parliament.”

“Honey, we’re not normal people. We’re the Griswolds!”

66           John Doe (Se7en) & Keyser Soze (The Usual Suspects)

Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey may be persona non grata in Hollywood these days, but until he ran into the #MeToo Mafia his career had been full of memorable roles. To be honest Se7en & The Usual Suspects aren’t really my kind of films, but both offer unforgettable villains made even better by the presence of Spacey inhabiting the characters. Se7en tells the story of a serial killer who uses The Seven Deadly Sins as a theme in his murders. John Doe forces a man to eat until his stomach ruptures (gluttony), kills a lawyer by literally taking a pound of flesh from him (greed),  starves a drug dealer/child molester almost to death (sloth), forces a man at gunpoint to kill a prostitute by raping her with a bladed “toy” (lust), & mutilates the face of a model (pride). For those who haven’t seen the movie I won’t spoil the final two crimes representing envy & wrath. The Usual Suspects finds the LAPD interrogating cerebral palsy-afflicted con man Verbal Kint after he survives a massacre on a ship. Kint weaves a tale about a crime lord named Keyser Soze, but in possibly one of the best endings to a movie ever it is revealed (major spoiler alert) that Verbal Kint IS Keyser Soze. Spacey won his first Academy Award (Best Supporting Actor) for his role in The Usual Suspects.

Quotes

“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” (Keyser Soze)

“Don’t ask me to pity those people. I don’t mourn them any more than I do the thousands that died at Sodom & Gomorrah.” (John Doe)

65           Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein)

First of all, it is pronounced “Fronk-en-steen”. That is just one small way in which Frederick has intentionally distanced himself from his grandfather’s twisted legacy. However, upon inheriting the family castle in Transylvania Frederick finds himself at a crossroads, and I think we all know the hilarious path he chooses. I’m a fan of parody films, and the way director Mel Brooks spoofs the classic story is funny in a way that I fear may be lost on modern youngsters. Gene Wilder not only stars as Frederick but he also co-wrote the screenplay with Brooks. The cast…Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Gene Hackman…is first rate, even if no one under 45 these days might appreciate that fact. I have a bad feeling that someday somebody is going to get the bright idea to remake Young Frankenstein, and that would be…at the very least…misguided.

Quotes

“From that fateful day when stinking bits of slime first crawled from the sea and shouted to the cold stars, ‘I am man!’ our greatest dread has always been the knowledge of our mortality. But tonight, we shall hurl the gauntlet of science into the frightful face of death itself. Tonight, we shall ascend into the heavens. We shall mock the earthquake. We shall command the thunders, and penetrate into the very womb of impervious nature herself.”

“My grandfather’s work was doodoo! I am not interested in death! The only thing that concerns me is the preservation of life!”

“Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a 7 and a half foot long, 54- inch wide GORILLA?!?!?! IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TELLING ME!?!”

63           Carl Spackler (Caddyshack)

One would assume that being an assistant greenskeeper at swanky Bushwood Country Club would allow even a middle class guy like Carl a decent lifestyle. Alas, he lives in small hut on the golf course, with his job & the game of golf itself consuming his life. He dreams of one day winning The Masters, and in his spare time breeds grass hybrids that one can “play 36 holes on in the afternoon” then “get stoned to the bejeezus” on it at night. He becomes obsessed with ridding the golf course of a rabblerousing gopher, going so far as to utilize explosives and blow up the very course he is employed to look after.

Quotes

“What an incredible Cinderella story! This unknown, comes out of nowhere, to lead the pack at Augusta.  The crowd is just on its feet here. He’s a Cinderella boy. Tears in his eyes, I guess, as he lines up this last shot. He’s got about 195 yards left, and he’s got a, looks like he’s got about an 8-iron. This crowd has gone deadly silent… Cinderella story, out of nowhere, former greenskeeper, now about to become the Masters champion. It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!”

“My enemy…my foe…is an animal. In order to conquer the animal I have to learn to think like an animal. And, whenever possible, to look like one. I’ve gotta get inside this guy’s pelt and crawl around for a few days.”

“And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”

64           Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter Series)

Author JK Rowling describes Hermione as having “pale skin, bushy brown hair, brown eyes, & large buck teeth”. In the films she is much lovelier than the impression one gets from the books, but her personality remains unchanged: intelligent, sensible, strong-willed, loyal, & just a tad bit officious. She’s the kind of person that’s nice to have in your corner, and one that presents fierce opposition. She’s tough as nails and not afraid to stand side by side with the boys or go toe to toe with the baddies, yet she retains an element of vulnerable femininity & kindness. I suppose for a certain age of young ladies Hermione could be called a feminist icon.

Quotes

“Honestly, am I the only person who’s ever bothered to read Hogwarts: A History?”

“Now if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed. Before you come up with another idea to get us killed. Or worse, expelled.”

“I’m highly logical which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clearly that which others overlook.”

“Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have!”

“No Harry, you listen…we’re coming with you. That was decided months ago…years, really.”

62           Austin Powers & Dr. Evil (The Austin Powers Series)

I may not be a James Bond fan, but I really enjoyed the Austin Powers movies, which are essentially a Bond parody. Powers is a 60’s era swinger & British spy whose arch nemesis is Dr. Evil. When Dr. Evil becomes cryogenically frozen Powers does the same so that he’ll be available to stop Evil in the future. That future is three decades later, when both Powers & Evil are thawed out and continue their battle. Dr. Evil intends to steal nuclear weapons & hold the world hostage for “$100 BILLION!!”. It’s all very silly, with double entendres, sight gags, & the kind of goofy humor that tickles my funny bone. Mike Meyers created the story as a tribute to his British parents and plays both characters. Meyers was a couple of years removed from his time at SNL and hadn’t had much success outside of the two Wayne’s World films, but cemented his stardom with the dual roles. Rumors of a fourth Powers movie have persisted since the third one hit theaters 17 years ago, but so far it hasn’t happened.

Quotes

“I bet she shags like a minx.” (Austin Powers)

“Fire the laser!” (Dr. Evil)

“The 70s and the 80s? You’re not missing anything! I looked into it. There’s a gas shortage and A Flock of Seagulls. That’s about it.” (Austin Powers)

“Why must I be surrounded by frickin’ idiots?” (Dr. Evil)

“Oh, behave!” (Austin Powers)

“Throw me a frickin’ bone here!” (Dr. Evil)

“Groovy, baby!” (Austin Powers)

“I have a better idea. I’m going to place him in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death.” (Dr. Evil)

“SILENCE!! I will not tolerate your insolence!” (Dr. Evil)

“Ladies & gentlemen, welcome to my new submarine lair. It’s long and hard and full of seamen.” (Dr. Evil)

61           John Bender (The Breakfast Club)

There are five high schoolers in trouble & spending their Saturday in detention at Shurmur High School in suburban Chicago on March 24, 1984: Claire Standish (The Princess), Andrew Clark (The Athlete), Brian Johnson (The Brain), Allison Reynolds (The Basket Case), & John Bender (The Criminal). Of that group it is Bender that shines just a little brighter. The idea behind these characters is that they represent typical high school stereotypes, and it’s the main reason the film holds up nearly four decades later…those labels are universal and don’t change all that much. Every high school has rebels like Bender, the kind of badass who thumbs their nose at authority, doesn’t care all that much about academics, & seemingly has a limited future. However, the great thing about The Breakfast Club is that it explores those archetypes & exposes their folly. It’s a movie that one perceives differently thru the prism of adulthood, and as a grown man I am struck by the not-so-subtle suggestion that Bender has been physically, mentally, & emotionally abused at home. There is a scene in which blowhard Principal Vernon gets in Bender’s face, and contrary to the bluster that he exhibits in the presence of his peers, the tough as nails bully cowers like a scared child. It is a stark reminder that not everything is always as it seems –  sometimes people put on masks to hide their pain.

Quotes

“Screws fall out all the time; the world is an imperfect place.”

“Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?”

“I could see you really pushing maximum density. You see, I’m not sure if you know this, but there are two kinds of fat people. There’s fat people that were born to be fat, and there’s fat people that were once thin, but they became fat, so when you look at them you can sort of see that thin person inside. You see, you’re gonna get married, you’re gonna squeeze out a few puppies and then….”

“Eat my shorts.”

“”Face it…you’re a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.”

60           Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice)

Horror comedies are a rare treat, but they are the kind of Halloween-ish fare I prefer instead of straight up slasher flicks. Michael Keaton is an undervalued gem of an actor, capable of adding zest to comedies, dramas, big budget superhero films, biopics, or whatever else he does. When a young couple dies in a car accident but still finds themselves residing in their suburban Connecticut home they employ the services of a centuries old “freelance bio-exorcist” to get rid of the new owners of the house. That freelancer is a fast-talking, mischievous, & crude trickster who is essentially a “Livingbuster” (as opposed to a Ghostbuster)…a ghost who exterminates the living by scaring them away. The name Betelgeuse (the proper spelling) refers to a star in the Orion constellation that is the ninth brightest star in the night sky. Rumors of a Beetlejuice sequel have been circulating for years, but the project seems to have hit a wall.

Quotes

“I’m the ghost with the most, babe.”

“It’s showtime!”

59           Sonny Corleone (The Godfather Trilogy)

Hands down Sonny has the greatest death scene in movie history. The eldest son of Don Vito Corleone, hothead Santino takes over as temporary boss of The Family after his father is shot by goons working for narcotics kingpin Turk Sollozzo. Under Sonny’s leadership the Five Families engage in a Mafia war after Sonny’s younger brother Michael kills Sollozzo & a corrupt cop, forcing the entire Corleone organization to “go to the mattresses”. After his brother-in-law Carlo physically abuses his wife Connie, Sonny defends his sister’s honor by beating the holy hell out of Carlo, which leads to rival boss Emilio Barzini setting a trap using Carlo to bait Sonny into making a reckless mistake. He is brought down in a hail of gunfire at a toll booth. Sonny’s sexual prowess and physical…gifts…are elaborated on much more in the book than the movie, but his affair with one of Connie’s bridesmaids at the beginning of the first film is important because his illegitimate son Vincent Mancini becomes Don of the Corleone Family in the much maligned & underappreciated Part III.

Quotes

“Hey, whatcha gonna do, nice college boy, eh? Didn’t want to get mixed up in the family business, huh? Now you wanna gun down a police captain ’cause he slapped ya in the face? Hah? What do you think this is? The Army, where you shoot ’em a mile away? You’ve gotta get up close like this and bada-bing, you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit!”

58           Godzilla (various films)

Godzilla (which in Japanese translates into gorilla whale) is a 300-400 ft. reptilian creature weighing several hundred thousand tons who lives in the sea and is awakened as a result of nuclear radiation. He has been the star of about three dozen films dating back to the 1950’s, and the earliest movies are still the best, mostly because of the kitschiness factor of the archaic special effects & amusingly poor dubbing of English over the original Japanese. Big scary monsters are nothing new in Hollywood, but most of them come & go rather quickly. Maybe they get a couple of sequels but that’s usually it. Godzilla has stood the test of time, and we can still count on a new movie in the series popping up somewhere every few years for our viewing pleasure.

Quotes

57           Bo “Bandit” Darville (Smokey & The Bandit)

At one point in my childhood Burt Reynolds was the biggest movie star in the world, and though he’d previously done well-regarded films like Deliverance & The Longest Yard my earliest memory of him is Smokey & The Bandit. I was five years old and didn’t really get all the humor, but there were car chases & crashes so that was enough to attract my attention. In the ensuing four decades I have watched this movie countless times, and though the entire cast is terrific it is The Bandit that holds it all together. He’s a trucker who’s between jobs, and that guy that knows everyone and is loved by everybody because of his charm & good looks. He’s cocky but not arrogant, confident enough in his skills to agree to a bet wherein he’ll bring 400 cases of Coors beer to Atlanta from Texarkana, TX in just 28 hours. The premise might not make much sense to folks in 21st century America because one first must understand that in the 1970’s Coors was unavailable east of Oklahoma (it didn’t become distributed nationally until 1986), and because it was made without stabilizers & preservatives could spoil quicker than other beers. Bootlegging was the illegal transport of alcoholic beverages due to violation of registration & licensing laws. I have no idea what the penalty was, but I assume the $80k Bandit is offer by Big Enos Burdette is worth the risk. At any rate, his antics are so much fun that it makes an otherwise odd & now outdated idea still entertaining after all these years.

Quotes

“Oh I love your suits. It must have been a bitch to get a 68 Extra Fat and a 12 Dwarf.”

“You’re always hoppin around. And you’re kinda cute, like a frog. And I’d like to jump ya.”

“He was taking a 10-100.”

“Cowboys love fat calves.”

“What’s a Texas county mounty doing in Arkansas?”

56           Moses (The Ten Commandments)

Hollywood’s history with Biblical epics is spotty at best, but they did it right with The Ten Commandments. It’s got to be a tough gig portraying a character from The Bible, right?? They are real people who actually walked the Earth, but it was so long ago that there aren’t photos or video to lay the foundation for an accurate depiction. With the exception of events that are written about in God’s Word there isn’t much to base a character on, yet millions of people whose faith is deeply important to them have high expectations. By 1956 director Cecil B. DeMille had helmed dozens of movies, many of them in the silent era in the first two decades of the 20th century. His epic circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth had won the Academy Award for Best Picture a few years earlier. Charlton Heston wasn’t DeMille’s first choice to play Moses, but the two had worked together on The Greatest Show on Earth and Heston’s knowledge of Egyptian history captivated the director, who thought the actor resembled Michelangelo’s 16th century statue of Moses in the church of San Pietro in Rome. William Boyd, who had portrayed Hopalong Cassidy in over five dozen cowboy movies in the 1930’s & 40’s, turned down the part, so Heston was chosen. He’d acted in over a dozen previous films, but it was The Ten Commandments that made him a star.

Quotes

“A city is made of brick, Pharaoh. The strong make many. The weak make few. The dead make none. So much for accusations.”

“It would take more than a man to lead the slaves from bondage. It would take a god, and I am no god. I am but a man, a man who asks by what right any man may enslave another of a different race or creed. But if I could free these people, I would.”

“Who shall withstand the power of God?!?!??”

55           Buck Russell (Uncle Buck)

It’s the role that John Candy was born to play: a slovenly black sheep uncle called on to babysit his nieces & nephew in the midst of a family emergency. Buck is a middle-aged unemployed bachelor who smokes cigars, drinks beer, drives a noisy old gas guzzler that’s seen better days, & spends a lot of time at the track betting on horses…not exactly the ideal caretaker for children. The two younger kids take an immediate liking to Buck, but he has a much more difficult time winning over his teenage niece. Those interactions between an uncle clearly out of his element and the children are the crux of the film, and Candy infuses Buck with a mix of humor, common sense, tough love, amiable befuddlement, & roguish charm that endears him to the audience.

Quotes

“I’m on to cigars now. I’m on to a five year plan. I eliminated cigarettes, then I go to cigars, then I go to pipes, then I go to chewing tobacco, then I’m on to that nicotine gum.”

“What’s your record for consecutive questions asked?”

“I don’t think I want to know a 6 year old who isn’t a dreamer or a sillyheart, and I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t even have a job. But I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re all good kids until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good. You so much as scowl at my niece or any other kid in this school and I hear about it, I’m coming looking for you! Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face! Good day to you, madam.

“Stand me up today and tomorrow I’ll drive you to school in my robe and pajamas and walk you to your first class.”

“Ever hear of a ritual killing? You gnaw on her face in public like that again and you’ll be one.”

“I have a friend who works at the crime lab at the police station. I could give him your toothbrush and he could run a test on it to see if you actually brushed your teeth or just ran your toothbrush under the faucet.”

54           R2D2 & C3P0 (The Star Wars series)

The Star Wars galaxy created by George Lucas offers a multitude of memorable characters. We’ll get to some others eventually, but we begin with a pair of futuristic droids that offer delightful levity amongst all the action & intrigue. There are eleven films in the series…the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the soon to be concluded sequel trilogy, Rogue One, & Solo. R2D2 & C3P0 have appeared in ten of these, which is by far more than any other character. R2D2 purportedly stands for Second Generation Robotic Droid Series-2, but the truth is that when Lucas heard his sound editor on American Graffiti ask for Reel 2, Dialog Track 2 in abbreviated form he liked the sound of it. R2D2 is a utility robot used for the maintenance & repair of starships and related technology. In the films he first belongs to Naboo defense forces charged with repairing Queen Padme Amidala’s ship. Thru the years he is owned by Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin Skywalker, Owen Lars, Luke Skywalker, & Rey. R2’s distinctive shape and various beeps & unique noises are signature elements of the character. C3P0 is a little more humanlike than his buddy, having legs & feet and the ability to speak. He is a protocol droid intended to assist in etiquette, customs, & translation and is fluent in over seven million forms of communication. Thru the years he has served Shmi Skywalker, the Lars family, Padmé Amidala, Raymus Antilles, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, & Rey. His distinctive gold plating makes him easy to spot in a crowd, and his fussy, worrisome personality is rather comical. I’m sure back in the 70’s many people thought that by the 21st century robot assistants like R2D2 & C3P0 would be commonplace, but we’re not quite there yet.

Quotes

“For a mechanic, you seem to do an incessant amount of thinking.” (C3P0)

“Don’t blame me. I’m an interpreter. I’m not supposed to know a power socket from a computer terminal.” (C3P0)

“R2, you know better than to trust a strange computer.” (C3P0)

“It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity.” (C3P0)

53           Billy Madison & Happy Gilmore (eponymous films)

Adam Sandler’s career has been a mixed bag. He is undoubtedly talented & funny, but his shtick isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and he’s made a lot of bad movies. In my opinion his funniest films were in the early 90’s, though you won’t find many critics who would agree. I take no issue with solicitous, meaningful films with life lessons, powerful messages, & profound themes, but sometimes we just want to turn off our brain for awhile and laugh at something completely stupid & pointless and Sandler has done a decent job of providing that sort of entertainment. Billy Madison is a rather juvenile 20-something in a clear state of arrested development. When his hotel tycoon father plans to retire he’d prefer Billy take over the business but knows he isn’t capable, especially since the old man bribed teachers to pass Billy all the way thru school. At any rate, Billy accepts a challenge to complete 12 grades of school in two weeks, which is somehow supposed to magically make him qualified to helm a Fortune 500 company. I know…it makes very little sense, but the journey is lots of silly fun, which is the whole point. Happy Gilmore is a failed hockey player wannabe who must figure out a way to help his grandmother buy back her house that the IRS took for back taxes she owes. He inexplicably ends up on the PGA Tour and (spoiler alert) wins enough money as a champion golfer to help out his grandmother. Once again…don’t put too much thought into it. The plots of these movies aren’t meant to be logical and the characters aren’t supposed to be realistic, but Sandler infuses both Billy & Happy with enough affable charm that we root for their success and want them to overcome the odds despite the fact that they are total idiots.

Quotes

“Oh, Veronica Vaughn … soooo hot … want to touch the hiney!” (Billy)

“The Price is wrong, bitch!” (Happy)

“You ain’t cool, unless, you pee your pants! Everybody my age pee their pants; it’s the coolest!” (Billy)

52           Ellis “Red” Redding (The Shawshank Redemption)

Many folks may not realize that The Shawshank Redemption is based on a 1982 Stephen King novella. In that book Red Redding is described as a middle-aged Irish man with greying red hair, so casting Morgan Freeman in the role can only be described as an inspired choice. Red has been imprisoned at Shawshank for 40 years for murdering his wife & passengers in her vehicle after he tampered with the brakes. He has attained a level of influence for being able to smuggle a variety of goods into the jail for other inmates, though his attitude remains somewhat sullen. He is a practical man, resigned to his fate yet regretful of the crime he committed when he was young & stupid. Red befriends new inmate Andy Dufresne, and they end up changing each other’s lives tremendously. Freeman received his third Academy Award nomination for the role, but lost the Best Actor prize to Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump).

Quotes

“In 1966, Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank prison. All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap, and an old rock hammer, damn near worn down to the nub. I remember thinking it would take a 600 years to tunnel through the wall with it. Old Andy did it in less than 20. Andy crawled to freedom through 500 yards of shit-smelling foulness I can’t even imagine…or maybe I just don’t want to. 500 yards… that’s the length of five football fields; just shy of half a mile.”

“Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”

“These prison walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized. They send you here for life, that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts anyways.”

“Rehabilitated? Well, now, let me see. You know, I don’t have any idea what that means. I know what you think it means, sonny. To me it’s just a made-up word. A politician’s word, so that young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie and have a job. What do you really wanna know? Am I sorry for what I did? There’s not a day goes by that I don’t feel regret. Not because I’m in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone, and this old man is all that’s left. I gotta live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word. So go ahead and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.”

“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”

51           Laurie Strode (Halloween)

Screen legend Janet Leigh is the original Scream Queen for her small yet pivotal role in the 1960 Hitchcock classic Psycho, so it is fitting that her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis would assume the mantle after playing Lorrie Strode, an ordinary American teenager who endures a single night of terror at the hands of a knife-wielding masked maniac. Numerous sequels, remakes, & reboots have kept the Halloween franchise alive, but really the 1978 original & its initial 1981 sequel are the only two that matter.

Quotes

“Was it the boogeyman?”

Stay tuned!! There is more to come!!

90’s Film Frenzy: A Fatal Four Way Finale

Seven months ago we started our journey with 100 movies that defined the decade of the 1990’s. And while trilogies (Toy Story, Austin Powers, Scream) & Christmas films (Home Alone, The Santa Clause, The Ref) weren’t included, we still ended up with a rather eclectic & competitive field representing a decade that is difficult to pigeonhole.

It is tempting to define the 90’s with grunge, flannel, boy bands, hacky sack, baggy jeans, gangsta rap, & the rise of The Internet, which wouldn’t necessarily be inaccurate. However, when it comes to movies I don’t think any of that translated well…atleast to anything noteworthy. When thinking about the 1990’s on film it seems as though there were solid contributions across all genres, with the defining characteristic being a general lack of defining characteristics. Whereas 80’s kids look back with fondness at some of the flicks we enjoyed growing up partly because of their singular music, kitschy style, & overall cheesiness, I don’t feel like 90’s films have that kind of unique vibe. Society seemingly turned down a dark & more violent path in the 90’s, which is certainly reflected in movies as much as anything else, but since I don’t tend to gravitate toward such morose entertainment it isn’t a big thing for me. I suppose it is fair to say technology played an increased role in 90’s movies, especially with improvements in special effects & animation. It is kind of fun & interesting to watch some 90’s films and chuckle at their depiction of The Internet, marvel at the size of cell phones, & realize how much social media would have altered the plot, but it’s not really a dominating theme.

The good thing about this lack distinction is that, instead of stories defined by their style, we were offered plenty of enjoyable movies with enough substance to give them staying power, and y’all know that’s a big deal to me. Do you realize that films made in the 90’s are now as old as films produced in the 1960’s would have been in the 90’s?? When considered thru that prism the sheer number of impactful movies made in the 1990’s that are still being viewed with some regularity three decades later is quite remarkable. Whether you prefer comedy or drama, are into horror or action, hold a special place in your heart for animation or holiday classics…the 1990’s had plenty of solid choices.

As far as this competition goes, just like 80’s Movie Mania I have tried to be fair in my analysis & conclusions, but obviously personal bias can’t be completely eliminated. I’m fine with that though, because at the end of the day favorite movies are always a matter of individual taste. We can cite box office numbers, award nominations & victories, and critical reviews ‘til the cows come home. All of those things are valid criteria for scrutiny, but the truth is that sometimes they matter and sometimes they don’t. Having said all that, my hope is that most won’t have too much of an issue with my conclusions. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

The Contenders

 

Mrs. Doubtfire             

Of the Final Four contestants Mrs. Doubtfire is probably the one that most represents a 90’s vibe, with a story centered around divorce & child custody. It’s a tough gig to turn such topics into comedy, but with Robin Williams anything was possible. He stars as Daniel Hillard, a fun-loving voice actor whose charm has worn thin with his career-driven wife Miranda, played by Sally Field. When the final straw breaks the camel’s back of their marriage Daniel is inspired to interview for the nanny position that Miranda has advertised, but obviously can’t do it as himself. The solution?? Don heavy make-up, a wig, panty hose, & a dress and transform into Euphegenia Doubtfire, an elderly British lady any mother would want to babysit their children. Adding to the hijinks is Miranda’s flirtation with a former beau, fueling Daniel’s envy. It’s not so much that he wants to rekindle the marital flame as much as he doesn’t like another man so smoothly stepping into a paternal role. At any rate, the premise allows Williams to dip into his arsenal of comedic tricks, and the result is a super family friendly dramedy that doesn’t sidestep real life issues or give into the temptation for an idealistic & sentimental ending, but mostly focuses on humor.

 

 

Groundhog Day

A good friend opined a long time ago that time travel is cool, which is why almost any book, movie, or TV show containing it is enjoyable. But what about a time warp in which a man lives the same day over & over & over & over…(well, you get the point)?? Bill Murray stars as Phil Connors, a grumpy Pittsburgh meteorologist who makes the 90 minute trek up to Punxsutawney on February 2 to cover the annual festivities. Travelling with him are smartass cameraman Larry (portrayed by 80’s funnyman Chris Elliott) & lovely producer Rita (Andi MacDowell, at the apex of her career…a few years after Sex, Lies, & Videotape and a year before Four Weddings & A Funeral). Phil is a malcontent who hates reporting on Groundhog Day and doesn’t seem too happy about anything else. When a snowstorm forces Phil, Rita, & Larry to spend the night in Punxsutawney the weatherman isn’t pleased, and that mood doesn’t improve when he wakes up the next morning to find its Groundhog Day again!! You may recall learning about the five stages of grief at some point in school…denial, anger, bargaining, depression, & acceptance. Phil goes thru similar stages while stuck in the endless loop. At first he is confused. Then he uses his circumstance (and the idea that there are no consequences for his actions) to engage in drunken debauchery. He then becomes depressed and commits suicide multiple times to no avail. After killing himself and the infamous groundhog but still waking up in the time loop Phil decides to use his situation to better himself, learning things like ice sculpting, piano, & French poetry. He then begins being generous & helpful to others and also falls in love with Rita, utilizing the time loop to learn everything about her and become the kind of man she wants in her life. It is her love that ultimately seems to end Phil’s nightmare, although it is never explained what caused the time loop in the first place, how long it lasts, or exactly why it stops. The entire film is an existential enigma disguised as an ordinary comedy.

 

Forrest Gump

Accepted at face value Forrest Gump is simply the life story of “a local idiot” who has some improbable adventures and always gravitates back toward the girl he’s loved since childhood…but is that all it is?? Tom Hanks won his second consecutive Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Gump, a low IQ child in 1950’s Alabama who grows up to win the Medal of Honor for heroism in Vietnam, become an All-American football player for Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide, & make millions of dollars as a  shrimping magnate. His childhood friend Jenny takes a different path. Abused as a young girl by her father, she becomes a promiscuous hippie, does drugs, & ends up as a single mother ill with “some kind of virus” (likely AIDS or hepatitis). Along the way Forrest & Jenny drift in & out of each other’s lives, ultimately ending up married & raising their young son together before Jenny dies. Forrest Gump is mostly a drama, but I love the fact that there are moments of levity. And what a soundtrack!! You’ve got music from Elvis Presley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Three Dog Night, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, The Mamas & the Papas, The Doobie Brothers, Simon & Garfunkel, Bob Seger…anyone who enjoys classic rock will dig the tunes in Forrest Gump. As far as deep analysis goes, there are some that look at the film as an allegory of two Americas, with Forrest representing small town conservatism and Jenny embodying the anti-war, free love, drug-induced counterculture that rose to prominence in the 60’s. There is plenty of symbolism, philosophical ponderings about fate & destiny, and maybe even some religious or atleast spiritual subtext. If one would rather just enjoy the pleasure of Forrest Gump as a great story, that’ll work and you won’t be disappointed, but the underlying themes are there and serve as food for thought.

 

Titanic                          

I don’t remember exactly when I became fascinated by the infamous Titanic disaster, but I know it was long before 1997.  There had been other books, movies, & documentaries about the tragedy, but this film took the public’s level of interest to a whole new stratosphere and created an entire cottage industry out of a voyage that lasted less than a week a century ago. Kate Winslet & Leonardo DiCaprio earned lifelong fame portraying Rose & Jack, a pair of star crossed lovers whose brief romance is cut short by an iceberg. Rose Dewitt Bewkater is a high society debutante being forced into marriage with arrogant steel tycoon Cal Hockley, while Jack Dawson is third class steerage passenger who won his ticket in a poker game. Think of it as a slightly modernized twist on Romeo & Juliet. The first part of the movie introduces us to the pair, whose initial encounter takes place when Jack talks Rose out of jumping into the ocean…ironic when one considers what is to come. Of course we know that Titanic was a real ship that actually sank, so eventually those events take center stage, the situation having been personalized by our affection for Jack & Rose. There is also a framing device, as the beginning of the film presents a modern day expedition to the bottom of the sea, with a treasure hunter seeking The Heart of the Ocean, a huge heart-shaped diamond given to Rose by Cal. The treasure hunter is contacted by a still living Rose, who is over 100 years old, and she relays the events of her memory to him & his team. Real life Titanic passengers & crew  like “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, ship builder Thomas Andrews, White Star managing director J. Bruce Ismay, Captain Edward Smith, business moguls John Jacob Astor IV & Benjamin Guggenheim, and elderly couple Isidor & Ida Strauss, are depicted, and one of the few complaints that I’ve heard about Titanic over the years is the fact that the stories of such historical figures take a back seat to the fictional love story of Jack & Rose, but personally I don’t have an issue with the creative choices of the filmmakers…it is a movie, not a documentary, and since it set records at the box office & during awards season I assume very few others saw a problem.

 

 

 **************************************************************

 

 

Elimination 1

Mrs. Doubtfire

Robin Williams was a legend, and Mrs. Doubtfire is undoubtedly one of his best movies, but at the end of the day it is just a solid comedy elevated by the performance of its star. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but at this point I have to pick nits and I cannot in good conscience promote it as an elite film.

 

 

Elimination 2

Titanic

Surprise!! You assumed it was going to win, didn’t you?? To be honest I might have had the same notion not that long ago. Critically acclaimed, record setting, award winning…Titanic is the total package. However, as I was pondering these final four films something hit me like a ton of bricks. Historical dramas, as these kinds of movies are known, are a double-edged sword. The notoriety of the event itself is obviously what leads to a film being made, and certainly it helps get curious moviegoers into the theater. But on the flip side the movie will always be compared to the actual situation, and in this case I think the tragic sinking of the RMS Titanic is such a fascinating story that Titanic feels merely satisfactory, perhaps even unnecessary. In retrospect the significance of the movie is that it renewed interest in the historic event.

 

 

The Runner Up

Groundhog Day

This breaks my heart. I adore Groundhog Day. Like a fine wine it has grown more deliciously elegant with age. To be honest I didn’t even watch it until years after its initial release. In February 1993 I was in the second semester of my junior year of college, spending most of my time drinking beer, hanging out with my fraternity brothers, and occasionally studying. I am actually glad that I didn’t see Groundhog Day back then, as I undoubtedly would have shrugged it off as the average comedy film that so many believe it to be instead of the metaphysical mediation of life that it actually is. Thru the prism of adulthood I am able to truly appreciate all that the movie has to offer. Though it isn’t winning this competition Groundhog Day is like the 12th seed during March Madness that goes on a run and finds itself head-to-head with the bluebloods, or an NFL team that has finished 8-8 for so many years that no one has any expectations then suddenly becomes a Super Bowl contender.

 

 

and finally…….

 

 

 

90’s Film Frenzy Champion

 

Forrest Gump

Tom Hanks starred in about a dozen significant films during the 1990’s, so I suppose it comes as no surprise that one of his works would win this competition. Something that I have consistently stated in our many discussions about movies in this space over the years is that a key benchmark for me is repeat viewings, and the idea of whether or not I am happy/excited when channel surfing and see that a particular movie is on TV. It is one thing to head to the local cineplex and be entertained for a couple of hours by the latest action flick, rom-com, slasher film, Christmas movie, sports drama, murder mystery, biopic, superhero adventure, sci-fi fantasy, or gross-out comedy, but it is entirely different when you are glad to watch the same story for the hundredth time decades later while vegging out at home. Not only does Forrest Gump check all the requisite boxes…made a ton of money, won a bunch of awards, killer soundtrack, received great reviews, eminently quotable…but I am still delighted to watch it whenever it is on, which is surprisingly often for a movie that hit theaters 25 years ago.  My father shares my love of Forrest Gump, which is a source of amusement for me since Dad & I rarely have a similar pop culture palate. I understand that there are a fair number of cynics who despise the movie for one reason or another, but I believe those folks are either overanalyzing or simply disagree with its perspective. To each their own.  My adoration has endured for over two decades and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

90’s Film Frenzy: The Elite Eight

It was at this point just over a year ago, as Merry Movie Mayhem was drawing to a conclusion, that I took the easy path and  let the final eight combatants bow out with what was essentially a collective tie. I don’t feel bad about that because Christmas movies are just so special that I am fine with not following thru with a fight to the death. I don’t have the same kind of sentimental attachment to the 1990’s, so today we move forward with the division finals, aka The Elite 8. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

Titanic                vs.              Sleepless in Seattle

After receiving a first round bye Titanic has gotten past Saving Private Ryan, Father of the Bride II, & The Birdcage. Sleepless in Seattle also received a first round bye then overcame challenges from Galaxy Quest, Dumb & Dumber, and My Cousin Vinny. I knew this moment would eventually come, and sadly it has arrived. During 80’s Movie Mania I eliminated National Lampoon’s Vacation in The Final Four because the ending makes it feel outdated. As I mentioned back then, the debate is whether that should be a mark against the film or celebrated as something that marks the era we are commemorating. Obviously I decided the former rather than the latter, and we are faced with a similar situation now. I adore Sleepless in Seattle, but the fact is that it feels dated because the invention of The Internet has made much of the premise irrelevant. The same story simply couldn’t be told nowadays. Conversely, Titanic has the advantage of being an historical drama. The story is what it is and it is…with all due respect to the unfortunate victims of the tragedy…frozen in time. The movie doesn’t feel outdated two decades later, and it won’t be two decades from now. One also cannot overlook the fact that it remains the second highest grossing film of all time and is one of only three films (the others being Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King) to win eleven Academy Awards. It has pretty good scores on Rotten Tomatoes too…89% from critics & 69% from the public, meaning that it is the rare movie that is actually good and popular. Though a film about a disaster that occurred in 1912 can’t really represent the decade of the 90’s I do feel like it is a signature piece of the cinematic experience of the 90’s.

 

      The Verdict:       

 

 

 

 

You’ve Got Mail                    vs.              Groundhog Day

You’ve Got Mail received a first round bye then defeated The Firm, Aladdin, & Good Will Hunting to make it to this point. After a first round bye Groundhog Day has gotten this far by overcoming Clueless, American Pie, & Apollo 13. The bottom line for me is originality. I have said for many years that I am secure enough in my smoldering machismo to admit that I enjoy a good rom-com, and You’ve Got Mail is a good rom-com. However, having said that, the thing about rom-coms is that they all share similar structural DNA. And why not?? The blueprint works, right?? But also, of the three films that Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan did together I think You’ve Got Mail might be the weakest…or atleast the most formulaic. Both Sleepless in Seattle and Joe Versus the Volcano feel more innovative, which makes a lot of sense since You’ve Got Mail is a loose remake of the 1940 James Stewart classic The Shop Around the Corner. Conversely, Groundhog Day is an inspired meditation on life, philosophy, love, & spirituality hiding in plain sight as an ordinary comedy. No one can argue with a straight face that Bill Murray & Andie MacDowell are as cute, perky, & charming as Hanks & Ryan, but his beleaguered cynicism and her enthusiastic naiveté work perfectly in Groundhog Day. It’s the kind of film one can watch over & over and discover something new each time, which seems rather appropriate.

 

      The Verdict:       

 

 

 

 

Forrest Gump             vs.              The Fugitive

After a first round bye Forrest Gump defeated Presumed Innocent, Die Hard: With A Vengeance, & Office Space to land in the Elite 8. The Fugitive received a first round bye then got past Joe Versus the Volcano, The Wedding Singer, & Father of the Bride. If you watch The Fugitive with absolutely no prior knowledge of the 60’s TV hit your enjoyment of the movie won’t suffer at all. Two powerhouse performances by Harrison Ford & Tommy Lee Jones (who won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor) combined with great writing & edge-of-your seat drama make for a terrific cinematic experience. Forrest Gump is based on a novel that had gone virtually unnoticed, and the movie makes changes so significant that it feels completely original. Forrest Gump has a great cast (Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field, Gary Sinise), a fantastic soundtrack, and was both critically acclaimed & popular with the masses. I do know people that hate it, but I just don’t understand those folks at all. This is a tough one, but repeat viewings give Gump the nod in a photo finish.

    The Verdict:       

 

 

 

 

Mrs. Doubtfire             vs.              The Big Lebowski

After a first round bye Mrs. Doubtfire has beaten That Thing You Do, Tommy Boy, & Scent of a Woman.  The Big Lebowski is the lone film in The Elite 8 that did not receive a first round bye, and thus far has overcome Ten Things I Hate About You, Wayne’s World, Deep Impact, & The Shawshank Redemption. My vibe is that, in a poll of many, those that were teens or in their early 20’s back in the late 1990s would lean toward Lebowski, while older folks might favor Doubtfire. It is probably an unfair comparison, but much like the early comedies of Adam Sandler (most notably Happy Gilmore & Billy Madison), if one happened to be at the exact right age and/or maturity when The Big Lebowski was released then it is likely an essential movie for that person. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be enjoyed by others, just that its humor is quite specific & unique. Jeff Bridges is one of the most underrated thespians of his generation, and his role as The Dude (or His Dudeness, Duder, or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing) might be his crowning achievement, even if it’s not the kind of character or film that the awards shows fawn all over. John Goodman is another undervalued actor, and his performance as somewhat aggressive & slightly off kilter Vietnam vet Walter Sobchak is a hidden gem. Conversely, it is likely that slightly older folks…those that came of age in the 80’s as Robin Williams rose to fame…would have a greater appreciation of Mrs. Doubtfire. Williams had a rather eclectic career and was capable of playing a whole range of parts, but his wheelhouse was funny comedies in which he could put his full arsenal of comedic genius on display, and Doubtfire fit his skills like a glove. The supporting cast…including Sally Field & Pierce Brosnan…have their moments, but it’s Williams’ show and he carries it well. I suppose that I must reluctantly admit to being part of the older crowd, because, though I appreciate Lebowski for what it is, there are moments of weirdness that don’t resonate with my particular comedy palate, while Doubtfire is the kind of gentle, easygoing, family friendly humor that I tend to gravitate toward.

 

    The Verdict:       

90’s Film Frenzy: The Sweet Sixteen

Greetings friends. No, I didn’t forget. With the holiday season in full swing and football reaching a fever pitch on all levels I suppose I’ve been a bit distracted, but it’s time to get back to 90’s Film Frenzy. I have decided to reintroduce an idea originally utilized during 80’s Movie Mania…a tale of the tape comparison focusing on five factors that I consider significant when evaluating these films:

 

Re-Watchability:       Is it on television a lot?? If it is on TV am I excited enough to stop channel surfing & watch??

Relevance:                 Does the story hold up well?? Or do modern societal norms & changes in technology make it feel dated??

Quotability:                Fun, interesting, well-written movies of all genres are usually very quotable.

Cultural Impact:            Is it one of those movies that everyone of a certain age has seen?? Is it familiar to multiple generations?? Do people still occasionally talk about it & watch it even many years after its release??

Pleasure:                     Do I enjoy watching this movie?? We’ve all read books or watched shows/movies just because we felt compelled to…because we wanted to be cool or seem educated. But what do you enjoy when no one else is around??

 

 

 

                                                                                                           

 

 

Titanic                                            vs.                       The Birdcage

 

Re-Watchability                                                                               

 

Relevance                         

 

Quotability                                                        

 

Cultural Impact                                                 

 

Pleasure                       

 

The Verdict:       Titanic. This one breaks my heart a little because The Birdcage and my man Robin Williams probably deserve a better fate, but I have to “keep it real” as the kids like to say. The Birdcage, while obviously a farce, looks a little different thru a 21st century prism of how we now view & treat the “LGBTQ Community”. Society wasn’t quite as “woke” back in the 90’s, so the caricature presented of a gay couple and their lifestyle might be offensive to some nowadays. And honestly, the exaggeration works both ways, because the movie doesn’t portray conservatives in the best light either. But above & beyond all of that Titanic is simply a cultural phenomenon that still ranks as the second highest grossing movie of all time and just about swept all the major awards. It is still shown on television with some regularity, and I enjoy watching it now almost as much as I ever did.

 

 

  

 

 

                                    My Cousin Vinny             vs.                   Sleepless in Seattle

 

Re-Watchability                    

 

 

 

 

Relevance                              

Quotability                          

Cultural Impact                                                                                     

 

 

 

 

Pleasure                                                                                                   

 

 

 

 

The Verdict:        Sleepless in Seattle. This is a tough one. I’m not sure either movie is all that quotable, but I give the edge to My Cousin Vinny because I still refer to young people as “yutes”. Vinny also wins the relevance category because Sleepless in Seattle has one major flaw…a quarter century later it simply couldn’t happen. Sam Baldwin would probably be pouring his heart out on a podcast rather than a radio show. Instead of thousands of lonely & desperate women sending him letters he’d be getting friend requests and ladies would be “sliding into his DMs”. Annie Reed wouldn’t need to sic a private investigator on Sam or fly to Seattle to check him out…she could just scrutinize his social media profiles. I’m not sure if young Jonah could still pull off the feat of booking a flight & making it all the way from Seattle to New York, but surely it would be much more difficult for a ten year old kid to do that in a post-9/11 world. However, having said that, Sleepless would be my choice to watch in vegg mode, I still get excited to catch it on TV & will occasionally stream it for no apparent reason when I’m bored, and I feel comfortable saying that the cultural impact of Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan outweighs the charm of Joe Pesci & Marisa Tomei.

 

 

  

 

 

                                                          Forrest Gump                    vs.                      Office Space

 

Re-Watchability                        

Relevance                                    

Quotability                                                                                                         

 

 

Cultural Impact                             

 

 

Pleasure                                       

 

The Verdict:       Forrest Gump. Kudos to Office Space for making it to the Sweet 16. That’s pretty darn good for a movie that ranked 121st at the box office in 1999 and has an ensemble of character actors, with Jennifer Aniston as the only real movie star in the cast. While it is extremely quotable it is also inescapably out-of-date with plot points centering around the Y2K “virus”, floppy disks, & a laserjet printer. However, the human frailties & frustrations associated with workplace culture that the movie pokes fun are universal & timeless. Conversely, Forrest Gump is a mini history lesson with a bit of romance thrown into the mix, which makes it somewhat similar to Titanic. Gump won Best Picture, Best Actor (Tom Hanks), and Best Director (Robert Zemeckis), and was the top box office draw of 1994, so its pedigree is irrefutable.

 

  

 

 

                                            The Fugitive              vs.                            Father of the Bride

 

Re-Watchability                              

 

Relevance                                        

 

Quotability                                     

 

Cultural Impact                               

 

Pleasure                                           

 

The Verdict:        The Fugitive. This is a coin toss situation. I could (and have) watched both movies over & over again. I’m not sure either one has any claim to being especially relevant, but neither is there anything about them that is particularly passé two decades later. Neither movie is all that quotable. As far as cultural impact goes, The Fugitive is based on a 1960’s TV show and Father of the Bride is a remake of a 1950 film. So what it comes down to for me is the fact that The Fugitive was nominated for seven Academy Awards (Tommy Lee Jones won Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture was lost to Schindler’s List) and has a 96% score on Rotten Tomatoes, while Father of the Bride has a 71% Rotten Tomatoes score and received two MTV Movie Awards nominations. As much as I adore Father of the Bride I cannot overlook the pedigree of the competition.

 

   

 

 

                                           Apollo 13                            vs.                             Groundhog Day

 

Re-Watchability                              

Relevance                                                                                              

 

 

Quotability                

 

 

Cultural Impact                               

 

 

Pleasure                                         

 

The Verdict:       Groundhog Day. This might be the hardest decision I’ve had to make thus far. Apollo 13 gets a small tip of the cap because all of us still say “Houston…we have a problem” whenever the opportunity arises, and kudos must be given for the film’s nine Academy Award nominations (Best Picture went to Braveheart) as well as its remarkable 95% Rotten Tomatoes score. Having said that, Groundhog Day has an even better 96% Rotten Tomatoes score, and where it really makes an impact is its relevance. Groundhog Day is…ironically…timeless. I cannot emphasize enough that it is so much more than a run-of-the mill comedy. It is profound in a way that is unique & rare. A lot of movies have an agenda and make a concerted effort to be meaningful & didactic, but Groundhog Day takes such a nuanced approach to being insightful that I’m not even sure the filmmakers intended anything so evocative. Apollo 13 is brilliant. Hanks, Ron Howard, Ed Harris, the music…the whole package is a dazzling display of what talented people can accomplish when they unite to make a good movie. However, let’s be honest…it is based on a real event that was pretty extraordinary. I do not want to sell the powers-that-be short. Afterall, plenty of terrible movies have evolved from really cool true stories. But in this case I have to give the edge to creative brilliance born from fiction.

 

  

 

 

                                         Good Will Hunting                 vs.          You’ve Got Mail

Re-Watchability                                                                                                 

 

Relevance                                      

Quotability                                      

 

 

Cultural Impact                                                                                                 

 

 

Pleasure                                                                                                          

 

 

 

The Verdict:       You’ve Got Mail. The biggest mark against You’ve Got Mail is relevance. AOL, dial-up, chat rooms…all are 90’s relics. Much like the other Hanks/Ryan collaboration that I adore…Sleepless in Seattle…social media makes the whole plot of You’ve Got Mail largely obsolete. But despite that notable deficiency it is still a film with irresistible charm and fine performances from its two leads as well as supporting roles for Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Jean Stapleton, Steve Zahn, & Heather Burns. Good Will Hunting garnered Academy Awards for Matt Damon & Ben Affleck (Best Original Screenplay) as well as my man Robin Williams (Best Supporting Actor), but honestly…I haven’t watched it in two decades. It just hasn’t remained in our collective pop culture consciousness.

 

  

 

 

                          Shawshank Redemption                 vs.              The Big Lebowski

Re-Watchability                                                                                               

 

 

Relevance                    

 

 

Quotability                                                       

 

 

 

 

Cultural Impact                            

 

 

 

 

Pleasure                   

 

 

 

 

The Verdict:       The Big Lebowski. This may surprise some folks. The pedigree for Shawshank is enviable. Seven Academy Award nominations (though it did not win any of them). A 91% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Conversely, Lebowski was barely noticed at the box office and took several years to make an impact on the pop culture landscape. I still don’t think one can think of it as “mainstream”. However, once it became a thing amongst film buffs the popularity of Lebowski soared. It is one of the most quotable movies out there, and for me it comes down to the idea of sitting down for the enjoyable diversion of watching a movie. I’m not against drama at all, but Lebowski is just more fun. Shawshank has an inspirational & uplifting conclusion, but one has to grind thru a pretty intense couple of hours before that, and I am rarely in the mood for that.

 

  

 

 

                                             Mrs. Doubtfire             vs.               Scent of a Woman

Re-Watchability                            

Relevance                                     

Quotability                                                                                                        

 

 

Cultural Impact                              

 

 

Pleasure                                         

 

The Verdict:       Mrs. Doubtfire. I recently read a really interesting biography about Robin Williams, and in it there is a discussion about the latter part of his career. His wheelhouse was undoubtedly zany comedy, but a combination of Williams’ determination to prove himself as an actor and some questionable decisions by various folks led him to do films like What Dreams May Come, One Hour Photo, August Rush, & Insomnia. Some of his dramatic roles…Good Will Hunting, Awakenings, Dead Poets Society…are well regarded, while a few of his comedies…Flubber, Patch Adams, License to Wed…missed the mark, but Mrs. Doubtfire is a perfect platform for his talent and I can’t help but wish that his filmography contained a lot more such showcases. Scent of a Woman is essentially two hours of Al Pacino chewing scenery, which is delightful fun that I enjoy just fine, but Mrs. Doubtfire is the better movie.

35+ Days of Christmas on WSAM

Some years back I spoke my peace about Christmas Creep, and since then it’s just gotten worse. The holiday season pretty much starts in October now, which means that television networks like Hallmark and Freeform have already been airing Christmas movies for awhile. However, as much as I adore this time of year and love watching such films, I’ve always had an issue with the way AMC, TCM, and other such channels do their programming. Other than starting way too early I believe they make three key mistakes.

First of all, their definition of a Christmas movie is decidedly…avant-garde. Frozen?? Harry Potter?? Toy Story?? No…just…no. Just because a film is animated and/or produced by Disney doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Hallmark obviously produces their own holiday flicks, but for the channels that show old big screen classics there are plenty of legit choices that fit the criteria.

Secondly, when the month of December hits I want wall-to-wall Christmas movies. I understand counter-programming. I get it. Some folks aren’t particularly into Christmas and they want some entertainment too. But for a television station…particularly one that is primarily dedicated to movies…I feel like it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Are you in or out?? Don’t air a great old Christmas movie then follow-it up with a tepid rom-com or a western. You’re creating a vibe…ambiance… a certain kind of mood. Even amongst the Christmas sub-genre there can be synergy. I am not familiar with all the ins & outs of television programming, but I think the powers-that-be can do better.

And finally, I realize that Christmas movies are a relatively finite category. There are only a handful of really good ones, and they mostly fall into one of three groups: wacky family hijinks, Santa Claus stories, & adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Having said that, I still believe that any TV channel dedicating itself to holiday programming can do better than showing the same few movies over & over & over again until even the most ardent fans become a little bit tired of them. In the recent past Freeform has aired Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, & The Polar Express about two dozen times…each. That’s ridiculous.

Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that a few years ago I came up with a weekend movie marathon for Christmastime. So I began to ponder the idea of expanding that concept. What if I owned a TV channel akin to AMC, TCM, Hallmark, or Freeform?? How would I program an entire month+ of holiday classics?? The first thing I had to do was establish some rules:

  • My holiday programming begins the day before Thanksgiving and ends a couple of days after Christmas. It runs on weekdays from 4pm-Midnight(ish), with expanded weekend hours.
  • Movies would air unedited. I am not advocating rampant profanity or other adult content, but is that really an issue with most Christmas movies anyway?? It has always driven me nuts when Freeform edits references to Jack Daniels & Wild Turkey in Christmas Vacation. There are more objectionable scenes in random commercials for pete’s sake. I’m also not a fan of cutting the infamous “blackface” scene in Holiday Inn. Societal norms evolve…oftentimes for the better…but I don’t believe in censoring a movie made darn near a century ago just because our collective belief systems are a bit different nowadays. If you are so overly sensitive that a two minute scene in a movie offends you that is your problem.
  • And lastly…the big one. After compiling a list of movies & television specials for this exercise I gave myself a limit of five airings. No matter how awesome a film might be I think seeing it five times in the space of a month is quite enough. I grew up in an era when It’s A Wonderful Life was on literally every day…multiple times per day…the whole month of December. I have spent the past two decades enjoying TBS/TNT’s 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. I have no issue with any of that…I am simply taking a different approach.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday        11/21

4pm            Free Birds

6pm            Dutch

8pm            Home for the Holidays

10pm                   Scent of a Woman

 

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Day       11/22

3:30pm      WKRP in Cincinnati S1E7 “Turkeys Away”

4pm            Holiday Inn

6pm            Grumpy Old Men

8pm            A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving     

8:30pm      Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

10:30pm    The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

We eased into our merry month of holiday goodness with some Thanksgiving gems. Free Birds is a 2013 animated tale about turkeys traveling back in time to prevent their brethren from ever becoming the holiday’s main course. Dutch is an early 90’s dramedy starring Ed O’Neill (Married with Children’s Al Bundy) as a guy who offers to pick his girlfriend’s son up at his private school in Georgia and drive him back to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Home for the Holidays is a mid-90’s ensemble dramedy about a family getting together for Thanksgiving, notably starring Robert Downey Jr., Holly Hunter, Claire Danes, Dylan McDermott, Charles Durning, & Ann Bancroft. Scent of A Woman paints outside the lines a little bit, but does take place at Thanksgiving. Ditto for Grumpy Old Men, which has scenes set at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles is a beloved Thanksgiving tradition in my house, as is Turkeys Away, probably one of the greatest sitcom episodes of all time. I’m never quite sure where The Nightmare Before Christmas fits in, but I suppose it’s worth a couple of viewings.

 

 

 

Friday        11/23

4pm            Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Holiday Inn        

10pm                   Miracle on 34th St. (1947)

 

Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making. It is more than that. It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving. – J. C. Penney

 

 

 

 

Saturday    11/24

Noon          The Year Without a Santa Claus

1pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

2pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

3pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

5pm                   Miracle on 34th Street (1994)       

7pm            Scrooge (1951)

9pm            Christmas with the Kranks

 

Trading Places stars Dan Aykroyd as a wealthy businessman & Eddie Murphy as a fast talking con artist who are both manipulated by two rich old geezers into switching societal roles as part of a bet they view as a sociological experiment. It was Murphy’s follow-up to 48 Hrs. and preceded Beverly Hills Cop. Is it a Christmas movie?? Ehhh…close enough for me.  Holiday Inn has scenes set at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and every other major holiday on the calendar, and it introduced the world to White Christmas, which has gone on to become the best-selling Christmas song of all time. The Lemon Drop Kid is a criminally underappreciated Bob Hope offering from 1951 in which he stars as a loquacious hustler who crosses the wrong gangster and must come up with the $10k he screwed him out of by Christmas Eve. When his department store Santa con doesn’t work out The Kid launches a scheme to raise money for a fake retirement home. Hilarity ensues. It is pretty much impossible to find The Lemon Drop Kid on television or elsewhere, but I would absolutely change that because it is a fun movie that deserves some attention, plus it introduced the world to the classic carol Silver Bells. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol is a holiday episode of the British television show Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson. In this special episode Blackadder is the kindest & most generous man in England, but everyone takes advantage of him, his business isn’t doing well, and he’s miserable & lonely. On Christmas Eve a single spirit essentially shows him what life would be like if he were mean & uncaring like some of his ancestors, and he becomes convinced that everything would be awesome. It is a clever interpretation that turns Dickens’ A Christmas Carol upside down. Speaking of A Christmas Carol, the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim is generally regarded as the best by many, and so it’s a big part of our special month.

 

 

Sunday      11/25

Noon          The Star Wars Holiday Special

12:30pm    A Charlie Brown Christmas

1pm            All I Want for Christmas

3pm            Christmas Every Day

5pm            Four Christmases

7pm            Fred Claus

9pm            Frosty the Snowman

9:30pm      Scrooge (1951)

 

The Star Wars Holiday Special aired only once…on November 17, 1978, which was about a year after the first film but a couple of years before The Empire Strikes Back. It received such negative reviews that it has never been on TV again and is a rare find, but since Star Wars is a much bigger deal now than it was then I think it’s time to bring the Christmas special out of the moth balls. It can’t be any worse than the prequels & sequels, right?? Vince Vaughn is a guy that many people either love or hate, and I happen to like the guy. Not all of his movies are winners, but both Fred Claus and Four Christmases are worth an airing or two during the holiday season. All I Want for Christmas and Christmas Every Day are made-for-TV movies that originally aired on ABC Family (now Freeform) back in the early to mid-90’s. They’re cute & entertaining enough that I’ve retained a certain level of fondness for them over the years, and I believe others might enjoy them as well. Christmas with the Kranks is based on John Grisham’s 2001 novel Skipping Christmas and stars Tim Allen & Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple whose plan to ditch the annual holiday hullabaloo in favor of a tropical cruise doesn’t quite work out. It isn’t the greatest Christmas movie, and at first I kind of hated it…but it has begun to grown on me.

 

 

Monday     11/26

4pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

6pm            Scrooge (1951)

8pm            Trapped in Paradise

10pm                   Santa Claus: The Movie

 

Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel, & reindeers, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas. – Ronald Reagan

 

 

Tuesday    11/27

4pm            Deck the Halls

6pm            The Santa Clause

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

 

Trapped in Paradise stars Nicolas Cage, Dana Carvey, & Jon Lovitz as three dimwitted brothers who rob a bank in a small Pennsylvania town on Christmas Eve then are unable to leave. They are befriended by the super friendly & naive citizens who don’t realize that they’re the bank robbers. Deck the Halls stars Danny DeVito as a guy determined to make the Christmas lights display at his house so dazzling that it can be seen from space, and Matthew Broderick as the tightly wound neighbor hellbent on stopping him. Neither are considered good movies by critics or the viewing public, but I don’t mind watching them once or twice this time of year. For some strange reason only 2/3 of Tim Allen’s Santa Clause trilogy…the original & the third one…currently get a lot of play on television. I seem to recall reading somewhere that feminazis & other social justice warriors have an issue with the second film, but I rather enjoy it. I mean…it’s a trilogy, right?? I readily admit that the first Santa Clause is far & away the best, but I also think it’s pretty obvious that The Mrs. Clause is much more entertaining than The Escape Clause. Not even Martin Short & Alan Arkin could save that one. Still though, all three need to be a part of our celebration.

 

 

Wednesday 11/28

4pm            Scrooge (1970)                                                 

6pm            Frosty the Snowman  

6:30pm      Disney’s A Christmas Carol

8:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas

9pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

9:30pm      The Lemon Drop Kid

 

Once again, we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.  –  Dave Barry

 

 

 

Thursday 11/29

4pm            Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

5pm            The Star Wars Holiday Special    

6:30pm      The Lemon Drop Kid

8:30pm      A Christmas Carol (1938)

10:30pm    A Christmas Carol (1984)    

 

I wrote about my favorite adaptations of A Christmas Carol four years ago, so I won’t go into full rehash mode here, but a little clarification couldn’t hurt. The 1938 version is a sanitized, family friendly movie starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge. The 1984 version was a made-for-TV movie starring George C. Scott as Scrooge that didn’t start airing annually again until 2007 per an agreement with Scott’s estate. The 1970 version is a musical starring Albert Finney as Scrooge. Patrick Stewart starred as Scrooge in a made-for-TV movie originally aired on TNT in 1999. Disney’s screen capture animated version was released in 2009 and stars Jim Carrey as Scrooge as well as other roles.

 

 

Friday 11/30

4pm            Mixed Nuts

6pm            Lethal Weapon

8pm            Die Hard

10pm                   Bad Santa

 

Wow…talk about a weird Friday night!! Mixed Nuts has an all-star cast, including Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Garry Shandling, Juliette Lewis, Adam Sandler, Robert Klein, Rita Wilson, Rob Reiner, Parker Posey, Jon Stewart, & Liev Schreiber. That’s quite an eclectic lineup. It is an alleged comedy about a suicide hotline that has been evicted from its office space on Christmas Eve. There are a lot of subplots & hijinks, but I’ll spare you the details. Mixed Nuts has been mentioned as the worst Christmas film of all time, but I’ve seen worse and believe the impressive lineup of performers alone merits a viewing or two, even though all of that talent adds up to shockingly little  entertainment. Bad Santa is a bit too vulgar for my tastes, but it has a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered by some to be a modern classic. Few seem to engage in the same good-natured debate about whether or not Lethal Weapon is a Christmas movie in comparison to the annual arguments for & against the worthiness of Die Hard to be considered thusly, but for our purposes both are included as an action packed & mildly violent break from the typical sentimentality of the holiday season.

 

Saturday 12/1

Noon          Mickey’s Christmas Carol   

12:30pm    The Star Wars Holiday Special

2pm            Disney’s A Christmas Carol

4pm            It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

6pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

8pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

10pm                   Scrooge (1970) 

 

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. – Calvin Coolidge

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 12/2

Noon          The Muppet Christmas Carol

2pm            Jingle All the Way

4pm            Scrooge (1970)

5pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

7pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

9pm            The Ref    

 

I fondly remember watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol when I was a kid. It’s only a half hour long, and let’s face it…Ebenezer Scrooge is a role tailor made for Scrooge McDuck. It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is a Muppet homage to It’s A Wonderful Life in which Kermit is on the verge of losing his theater and a guardian angel shows him what life for his friends would be like if he’d never been born. There are a lot of human performers, including Whoopi Goldberg, David Arquette, Joan Cusack, & William H. Macy. I assume that movie was made based on the success a decade earlier of The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine as Scrooge. I am generally not a fan of remakes, and nothing can touch the greatness of the original Miracle on 34th Street, but the 1994 version is decent enough. My love for The Ref goes all the way back to its initial foray onto home video in the 90’s. Denis Leary stars as a burglar forced to hold a bickering couple and their dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve. You won’t see it on television all that much, but I always seize every opportunity to spread the word & encourage folks to seek it out during the holiday season.

 

 

 

Monday 12/3

4pm            Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

4:30pm      The Polar Express

6:30pm      Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

7:30pm      How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

8pm            Frosty the Snowman

8:30pm      Mickey’s Christmas Carol   

9pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

 

Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.  – Helen Steiner Rice

 

 

 

Tuesday 12/4

4pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

4:30pm      Rise of the Guardians

6:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas

7pm            The Santa Clause

9pm            Scrooged

 

Mr. Krueger’s Christmas is a half hour special produced by the Mormon Church that initially aired on NBC in 1980. Unfortunately you’ll have a difficult time running across it these days, but if it were up to me it’d become an annual tradition. Jimmy Stewart stars as an elderly janitor living in the bottom floor of the building that he takes care of, and he is a very lonely man desperate for human interaction. The story depicts Willie Krueger having Walter Mitty-esque dreams on Christmas Eve, including singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and being part of the manger scene on the night of Christ’s birth. It is a well-written & very poignant story with a fantastic message. Rise of the Guardians is an animated tale about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, & The Sandman recruiting Jack Frost to help them wage battle against The Boogeyman. I saw it when it hit theaters a few years ago and my biggest takeaway was wondering why Alec Baldwin decided to give Santa a German accent. It hasn’t really made much of a holiday pop culture impact, but that could change.

 

Wednesday 12/5

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

6pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Ref

 

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection. – Sir Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/6

4pm            White Christmas

6pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

8pm            The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

10pm                   Scrooged 

 

We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/7

4pm            Arthur Christmas

6pm            Trapped in Paradise

8pm            The Ref

10pm                   Silent Night, Deadly Night

 

I’m not a horror movie fan by any stretch, but 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night is cheesy fun for fans of the genre. It tells the story of a boy who witnesses his parents being murdered by The Jolly Old Elf, then grows up to become a psychotic Santa himself. There were four sequels produced. We’re not including them here, but you’re welcome to check them out if that’s the sort of thing that you’re into. Arthur Christmas is an animated tale about Santa’s inept son Arthur and his Christmas Eve mission to deliver one present that was inadvertently left behind at The North Pole. It has a really unique vision of what The North Pole & Santa’s toy enterprise might look like, and depicts the role of Santa Claus as a generational title passed down from father to son.

 

Saturday 12/8

Noon          The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

1pm            It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

3pm            White Christmas

5pm            Santa Claus: The Movie

7pm            The Bishop’s Wife

9pm            Jingle All the Way

 

Jingle All the Way is another not-so-great movie that has grown on me just a bit. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a negligent Dad trying to track down the hottest Christmas gift of the year for his son, and Sinbad (whatever happened to him??) as the wacky mailman who keeps getting in the way. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is an 80’s Rankin-Bass production of a children’s book written by L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz). It is essentially another Santa origin story. The Bishop’s Wife stars Cary Grant as guardian angel sent to provide some guidance to a clergyman & his flock, but things get weird when the angel is smitten with the minister’s wife. A remake called The Preacher’s Wife starring Denzel Washington & Whitney Houston was made in the mid-90’s, but no one knows why.

 

Sunday 12/9

Noon          Holiday Inn

2pm            White Christmas

4pm            Elf    

6pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

8pm            A Christmas Story

10pm                   Scrooged

 

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality. – Washington Irving

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 12/10

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

6pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

8pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

10pm                   Home Alone

 

I don’t think Christmas is necessarily about things. It’s about being good to one another. – Carrie Fisher

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 12/11

4pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

5pm            The Ref

7pm            Elf

9pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

 

 

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. – Bob Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12/12

4pm            The Polar Express     

6pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

8pm            A Christmas Story

10pm                   Home Alone

 

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin. – Jay Leno

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/13

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

6pm            A Christmas Story

8pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

10pm                   Elf    

 

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. –  George Carlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/14

4pm            The Family Stone

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Die Hard   

10pm                   Lethal Weapon

 

Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. – Norman Vincent Peale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 12/15

Noon          A Christmas Carol (1938)

2pm            Frosty the Snowman  

2:30pm      All I Want for Christmas

4:30pm      Christmas Every Day 

6:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas 

7pm            The Family Stone

9pm            Die Hard

 

I bought my brother some gift wrap for Christmas. I took it to the gift wrap department and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he would know when to stop unwrapping.  –  Steven Wright

 

 

 

Sunday 12/16

Noon          A Christmas Carol (1999)

2pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

3pm            A Christmas Carol (1938)

5pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

7pm            Mickey’s Christmas Carol

7:30pm      Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

8pm            Scrooge (1951)

10pm                   Scrooge (1970)

 

Ever wonder what people got Jesus for Christmas? It’s like, “Oh great, socks. You know I’m dying for your sins right? Yeah, but thanks for the socks! They’ll go great with my sandals. What am I, German?” – Jim Gaffigan

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 12/17

4pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

6pm            Trapped in Paradise

8pm            Fred Claus

10pm                   Four Christmases

 

The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that he might offer up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas. – Rev. Billy Graham

 

Tuesday 12/18

4pm            Christmas Every Day 

6pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

8pm            Frosty the Snowman

8:30pm      How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

9pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

9:30pm      Scrooge (1951)

 

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. – Garrison Keillor

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12/19

4pm            The Polar Express

6pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

8pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

10pm                   The Family Stone

 

The only real blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart. – Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/20

4pm            White Christmas

6pm            The Polar Express

8pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation       

10pm                   The Ref

 

The Magi, as you know, were wise men…wonderfully wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. – O. Henry

 

 

 

Friday 12/21

4pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Scrooged

10pm                   Santa Claus: The Movie

 

Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends. – Margaret Thatcher

 

 

 

 

Saturday 12/22

Noon          Fred Claus

2pm            Santa Claus: The Movie

4pm            All I Want for Christmas

6pm            Disney’s A Christmas Carol

8pm            Home Alone

10pm                   Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

 

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! – Charles Dickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 12/23

Noon          Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

1pm            The Year Without a Santa Claus

2pm            Home Alone      

4pm            Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

6pm            The Santa Clause

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

 

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. – Clement Clarke Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve

Noon          Elf    

2pm            The Santa Clause

4pm                   Scrooged

5pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

7pm            A Christmas Story

9pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

 

 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play

And wild & sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

Christmas Day

11am                   How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

11:30am    A Charlie Brown Christmas

Noon           Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

12:30pm    Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

2:30pm      A Christmas Carol (1938)

4:30pm      The Polar Express

6:30pm      White Christmas

8:30pm      Disney’s A Christmas Carol

 

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly. – Andy Rooney

 

Wednesday 12/26

Noon          Home Alone

2pm            Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

4pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

6pm            Elf

8pm            A Christmas Story

 

Perhaps it is because I don’t have children or work in retail and therefore don’t suffer some of the burnout & fatigue that others do as the holiday season draws to its conclusion, but I usually feel a general sense of melancholy when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas night. All the sudden all of the hoopla is over. Radio & TV stations resume regular programming. Some folks take down their decorations immediately. Well that’s not how we roll here ladies & gentlemen. We’re going to wean ourselves off of the holiday high we’ve been on for the past month and have one more day of Santa Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge, & general Christmas merriment.

 

Thursday, 12/27

Noon          Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July

1:30pm      Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

2:30pm      New Year’s Eve

4:30pm      When Harry Met Sally

6:30pm      Holiday Inn

8:30pm      Sleepless in Seattle

 

Christmas may be over but technically it’s still the holiday season. In the old days people used to celebrate The Twelve Days of Christmas (you may have heard a song about it). Those don’t even begin until what we know as Christmas Day and conclude on January 5. Don’t worry…I’m not going to take things that far. However, even in modern times most of us reserve a bit of the ol’ festive mojo for one more round of frivolity, and so we will conclude our holiday celebration with a day of entertainment revolving around New Year’s Eve/Day or atleast having scenes centered on it. I am certain that most are familiar with the offerings suggested here, but I will dive into 2011’s New Year’s Eve just a bit. It’s one of those rom-coms with a large ensemble cast and interweaving stories, all taking place on…well, I’m sure you can figure it out. It’s not a great film, as evidenced by an atrocious 7% Rotten Tomatoes score. Newsday called it “a perfect example of why the adjective Hollywood is so often used as a pejorative”. The New York Post said that it is “a soul-sucking monument to Hollywood greed and saccharine holiday culture”. Our old pal Ebert wondered “How is it possible to assemble more than two dozen stars in a movie and find nothing interesting for any of them to do?”. But it is that all-star cast (including Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Robert DeNiro, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigl, Michelle Pfeiffer, & Jon Bon Jovi) that is the draw, and I feel alright throwing it in amongst a few other movies that are certified classics, kind of like how a single horn player who isn’t really that talented can just kind of blend in & disappear amongst a large orchestra.

 

 

 

This concept could certainly be modified annually. Most of the movies & specials we’ve chose wouldn’t change all that much from year to year, but there would be nothing wrong with the occasional addition or subtraction. I’d put this lineup against any station out there and am confident that it would be considered by most to be superior to any alternatives. Having said that, I’d love to hear from The Manoverse. What has been included here that you don’t enjoy all that much?? Did I miss something that should be given some love?? As opposed to my viewpoint, do you like watching some holiday classics almost daily each December?? Which adaptation of A Christmas Carol do you prefer?? What is your stance on Die Hard as a Christmas movie?? Leave me some comments and let’s have some back & forth.

90’s Film Frenzy: Phat Round 3

My apologies for the brief hiatus I’ve taken from this competition. I have no valid excuse, so we’ll just move on. We have already covered Round 3 action in the Dope and Fly divisions, so we’ll try to finish up the third round within the next week. I know all you non-sports folks get a little perturbed with me this time of year, but rest assured I’ve not forgotten about you. Allow me to take this opportunity to wish The Manoverse a very Happy Halloween. Whether you’ll be trick-or-treating with your kids, handing out candy to the neighborhood crumb crunchers, curling up with a scary movie or book, or attending a wild & crazy costume party I hope y’all stay safe and have lots of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

Apollo 13                                                  vs.                       The Mask

After receiving a first round bye Apollo 13 defeated John Candy’s underrated rom-com Only the Lonely in Round 2. Most of the attention is…obviously…given to Tom Hanks, as well as his fellow “astronauts” Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, & Gary Sinise. The Academy showed some love to Ed Harris & Kathleen Quinlan by giving them Oscar nominations in supporting categories (Harris lost to Kevin Spacey for his role as Verbal Kint/Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects, while Quinlan lost to Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite). However, Apollo 13 features a large ensemble that really brings everything together. Character actors like Joe Spano, Chris Ellis, Marc McClure, Brett Cullen, Clint Howard, Loren Dean, & Christian Clemenson portray NASA officials. Ron Howard’s mother plays Jim Lovell’s mother Blanche. The kids portraying Lovell’s children aren’t given much to do but they do it well. These are the kinds of performances that are important in helping the viewer escape reality and really get into a movie. The film was also nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score, and the music does play a vital role. It’s a shame Apollo 13 only won two of the nine Academy Awards for which it was nominated. One never knows about such things…perhaps if it’d been released a year earlier or later it might have swept all of those awards and be considered one of the greatest films of all time. The Mask got past PCU in the first round and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective in Round 2. Unlike a large ensemble film The Mask is all about Jim Carrey (and to a lesser degree the hotness of Cameron Diaz). His talent (and some unique special effects) are the engine that makes the movie go. It’s a fun & somewhat memorable film, but hardly transcendant.

 

The Verdict:       Apollo 13. It’s a pretty easy decision really. I suppose one could look at it as Hanks vs. Carrey, and even by that metric Apollo 13 wins easily. However, Apollo 13 deserves a lot more credit than that. I’ll go so far as to say that it would be a great film even with someone besides Hanks portraying Jim Lovell. But of course Hanks makes everything that he is in better, so in this case he just elevates a fantastic movie to sublime.

 

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Good Will Hunting                                  vs.                        Batman Returns

Good Will Hunting got a first round bye and then defeated Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy in Round 2. The main attraction for me is the presence of Robin Williams in a role that finally won him an Oscar. I recently finished a great biography of Williams, and it was said in that book that at some point Williams began to take some heat from critics for playing sentimental & sympathetic roles that forced him to hide is well-known comic frenzy, but I think he was just so determined to be taken seriously as an actor that he didn’t think it wise to play zany comic characters. It was a balancing act with which he struggled his entire career. Batman Returns beat Showgirls in Round 1 and emerged from a second round triple threat against Pretty Woman & What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?. It has now gotten as far as its predecessor did in 80’s Movie Mania. I’ve read many opinions stating that Returns is actually better than 1989’s Batman, but I feel like it is less memorable. Of course the original featured Jack Nicholson’s superb performance as The Joker, which is hard to beat. Returns tries to match it with three villains…Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Danny DeVito’s Penguin, & Christopher Walken’s Max Shreck, a wealthy industrialist whose plans to build a chemical plant in Gotham City are derailed by Bruce Wayne, who then responds by backing The Penguin as a mayoral candidate to get what he wants. It is my understanding that the Schreck character was created when Billy Dee Williams, who portrayed Harvey Dent in the original film, decided not to return. I assume that Dent would have morphed into Two-Face, something that did occur when Tommy Lee Jones assumed the role in Batman Forever. I really like Penguin’s origin story in Returns, and of course Pfeiffer is the best Catwoman since Julie Newar & Eartha Kitt in the 60’s. Walken’s presence as Shreck feels out of place and somewhat misguided, although I’m not sure Dent’s presence would have been an improvement. Three villains is just too much in a Batman movie.

 

The Verdict:       Good Will Hunting. The question…as always…that I ask myself is if I were channel surfing on a lazy day which film would I watch. But more importantly, I think about which one excites me more. I love that feeling of flipping thru the channels and going “Oh cool!! ‘Insert Movie Name Here’ is on!!”, and the truth is that I’ve never felt that way about either of these movies. Batman Returns might legitimately be the best of the Burton/Schumacher Batman series, but it’s not nearly as iconic as its predecessor, and even 1997’s Batman & Robin has gotten more mileage out of being an allegedly terrible movie. I don’t find Good Will Hunting to be particularly memorable, but my love for Robin Williams is enough to push it thru.

 

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American Pie                                          vs.                        Groundhog Day

After Groundhog Day received a first round bye then got past Clueless in Round 1 I said that “I am busting at the seams to say everything I want to say” about it. The cool thing about Groundhog Day is that one can choose to view it from two different angles, and seeing it thru one prism doesn’t exclude a person from enjoying it thru the other. It works as a comedy based on Bill Murray’s sardonic wit, quirky supporting characters, & a unique situation. However, it really shines as an existential examination of life itself. One must realize that weatherman Phil Connors is stuck repeating the same day…depending on which theory one chooses to embrace…dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of times. One story I ran across awhile back estimated that Connors spends over thirty years in Punxsutawney just repeating February 2nd over & over & over. In that time he goes thru a whole range of emotions…confusion, bewilderment, anger, depression. He experiences it all. At first he uses the situation to his advantage, attempting to bed a beautiful woman and making a pass at his lovely co-worker Rita. Phil steals money, drives recklessly, & drinks heavily because he realizes there are no consequences for his actions. But then he becomes depressed and attempts to commit suicide multiple times. However nothing he tries works, and eventually he has a revelation. He accepts his weird circumstance and decides to use his time to learn new things, help people, become a better man, & woo Rita the right way. You see, Groundhog Day is not just another comedy…it’s a morality play about redemption, happiness, self-improvement, generosity, community, & love. American Pie got a first round bye then defeated Armageddon in Round 2, in no small part because the cast of Armageddon has been scornful of their own movie so I am not inclined to defend it if they don’t. American Pie is a generational teen sex comedy in the grand tradition of Animal House, Porky’s, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, & Risky Business. It might not be a high bar to aspire to, but then again I suppose it’s better to be remembered for gross out humor & delinquent hijinks than not be remembered at all like so many movies. The cast has gone on to do other noteworthy work, but American Pie will always be their legacy. A few sequels were made and they’re…okay…but the original stands on its own as one of the best comedies of its era.

 

The Verdict:       Groundhog Day. Much like we all enjoy watching A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, White Christmas, & a host of other classics every December, or some enjoy horror flicks, monster movies, & The Great Pumpkin in October, it has become tradition for me to watch Groundhog Day on February 2. But of course one can watch it any day of the year and it never gets old. American Pie is a solid comedy, a snapshot of an era while being simultaneously eternal, as good teen movies tend to be. It just ran into peerless competition.

 

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You’ve Got Mail                                       vs.                        Aladdin

You’ve Got Mail received a first round bye then upended The Firm in Round 2.  Greg Kinnear has carved out a nice little career for himself, with roles in charming fare like As Good As it Gets and Little Miss Sunshine. Parker Posey is oftentimes one of the only good things about a bad movie in stuff like Mixed Nuts, but also shines in ensemble mockumentaries like A Mighty Wind, Best in Show, & Waiting for Guffman. Neither star will ever shine as brightly as Tom Hanks or Meg Ryan, but they play key roles in You’ve Got Mail. Aladdin is a great film, but suffers from the same problem as The Lion King…its unavailability makes repeat viewings almost impossible. I’m not the kind of person who will love a movie just because a bunch of critics tell me I should, and I am also distrustful of snap judgements. How many times do we walk out of a movie theater heaping praise on what we’ve just watched, but a few years later we’ve never seen it again?? Conversely, how many times do we walk out of a theater thinking a movie was just alright, but a decade or two later it’s become a cult classic that we love and have watched countless times?? That’s why repeat viewings are crucial in my opinion. There are so many factors that play into one’s enjoyment of a movie that I truly believe it often takes time for appreciation to develop. Robin Williams was brilliant and his performance makes Aladdin great…but that is an opinion that I formed 25 years ago and I can’t be sure that it hasn’t changed. A live action remake with Will Smith as The Genie is scheduled to hit theaters next spring, and I’ll probably check it out.

 

The Verdict:       You’ve Got Mail. It’s not a perfect movie, but it is delightful enough to be on TV quite often and I’ll usually watch when it is on. Aladdin…well…it doesn’t have that advantage.