100 Memorable Movie Characters – The Top 25

“A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theater admission, & the babysitter were worth it.”    –  Alfred Hitchcock

 

 

Y’all thought I’d forgotten, didn’t you?? Waaaayyyyy back at the end of November we presented Part 4 of this series, and then everything just kind of stopped. We didn’t produce as much content during the holidays as usual, and The Sammy Awards were…canceled (for one year only). Then…as y’all are surely aware…the world was thrown into chaos due to the global coronavirus pandemic. And just as we were slowly beginning to emerge from all of that yours truly ran into some old familiar health issues. After a month in the hospital I am currently residing in an even more depressing place. I can think of no better way to pull myself out of the abyss than to reconnect with The Manoverse. For the sake of readability I have decided to break down the Top 25 into two segments. I don’t believe there will be many surprises, but I would love to hear some feedback. Are there any characters I left out?? Who is ranked too high?? Too low?? Keep in mind that I am an 80’s kid, so if you are a decade older or a decade younger some of my choices may not make much sense, but all in all I would stack my list up against any others out on the info superhighway. If you need to catch up or just give yourself a refresher on what we’ve done previously just go here, here, here, & here. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

25     Mickey Mouse (various films)

When we counted down our favorite cartoons a few years ago Mickey placed 10th. However, I feel like he also needs to be included here because he starred in well over 100 short films from 1928-53, as well as about a dozen full length movies. Those films not only introduced a plethora of additional Disney characters to the world (Goofy, Minnie Mouse, Pluto), but they served to etch Mickey into the pop culture consciousness of the first generations of moviegoers. His popularity has endured, and though he is no longer Disney’s biggest star (especially since they’ve expanded their footprint beyond animated movies) Mickey Mouse is still the company’s symbol and the character most associated with it. Three decades would pass between the initial wave of short films and Mickey’s comeback, and since then he has popped up occasionally, although he seems to be more of a television star these days, with any movies he’s in going direct to video.

 

 

 

24     Lt. John McClane (The Die Hard Series)

McClane makes the cut on a technicality. I said at the beginning that we weren’t including Christmas characters like Santa Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge, or George Bailey in this project because we already focused on them a few years ago. Lt. McClane ranked 10th on that particular countdown, but let us not forget that he has been the star of five Die Hard movies, with only the first one being a certified Christmas classic. And while the films that have followed don’t measure up to the original I believe they are good enough (especially the third…1995’s Die Hard With A Vengeance) for John McClane to be included here. I’m not sure it’s fair to call him an underdog, but he does seem to have a knack for finding himself in situations where the odds are stacked against him, and while most normal human beings would fold like a cheap suit under such duress he shines. McClane isn’t a superhero with any kind of special powers…he’s just a regular guy with incredible tenacity and a refreshing wit.

 

Quotes

“Yippie ki yay, motherfucker.”

 

 

23     Kirk, Spock, & Bones (The Star Trek Series)

When we counted down our 100 Memorable TV Characters back in 2018 Captain James T. Kirk & Mister Spock tied for 4th, with Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy ranked 24th. However, not only am I a bit more familiar with the Star Trek movies (six were produced featuring the original crew from 1979-91), but I think the dynamics changed a bit. Bones McCoy is even more endearing as a cranky old man. Captain Kirk balances getting older with his ever present fiery passion and the demands of an evolving Starfleet. Spock is infused with a skosh more humanity. The respect & admiration between the three is palpable and works well in balancing out the action sequences. I have enjoyed JJ Abrams’ rebooted Star Trek films to a degree, but they feel like a poor imitation of the original.

 

Quotes

“I don’t like to lose. I don’t believe in the ‘No-Win’ scenario.” (Kirk)

“Are you out of your Vulcan mind? No human can tolerate the radiation that’s in there!” (Bones)

“I have been and ever shall be your friend.” (Spock)

“I haven’t faced death. I’ve cheated death. I’ve tricked my way out of death and patted myself on the back for my ingenuity. I know nothing.” (Kirk)

“It’s bad enough to be court-martialed and to have to spend the rest of our lives mining borite, but to have to go home in this Klingon flea trap!” (Bones)

“Live long and prosper.” (Spock)

“That’s simply the way they talk here. Nobody pays any attention to you unless you swear every other word. You’ll find it in all the literature of the period.” (Kirk)

“This is insane! You’re proposing that we go backwards in time, pick up two humpback whales, bring them forwards in time, drop ’em off and hope they tell this probe what to go do with itself!” (Bones)

“Concentration is vital. You must be one with the rock.” (Spock)

“Forgive you? I ought to knock you on your goddamned ass.” (Kirk)

“Please Captain…not in front of the Klingons.” (Spock)

“God, I liked him better before he died.” (Bones)

“Damn it Bones, you’re a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can’t be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They’re the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don’t want my pain taken away! I need my pain!” (Kirk)

“The bureaucratic mentality is the only constant in the universe.” (Bones)

“If I were human I believe my response would be…go to Hell.” (Spock)

“This is the final cruise of the Starship Enterprise under my command. This ship and her history will shortly become the care of another crew. To them and their posterity will we commit our future. They will continue the voyages we have begun and journey to all the undiscovered countries, boldly going where no man has gone before.” (Kirk)

 

 

22     Sherlock Holmes (various films)

Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed on film more than any fictional character other than Dracula & Santa Claus, with the three of them trading the lead back & forth as more stories are produced. Going all the way back to silent films Holmes has starred in about four dozen movies, with the most famous probably being the 14 that were produced from 1939-46 with Basil Rathbone portraying the world’s foremost consulting detective. 1985’s Young Sherlock Holmes is a fun adaptation, while I am not keen on the more recent Guy Ritchie films starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes. I am a huge fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original short stories & novellas, and don’t believe modern filmmakers do that great of a job in capturing the ambiance & general vibe of the author’s creation. Occasionally they sort of travel in the opposite direction and go for parody. In the case of 1988’s Without a Clue starring Michael Caine it works, while Holmes & Watson with Will Ferrell from a couple of years ago is an abject failure. If Holmes had been consistently portrayed in better movies thru the years it is likely he’d be ranked much higher in this countdown because I adore the character, but it seems like he is far better off on television than on the big screen. Or you could just read the books.

 

Quotes

“No magic, Watson. Pure and simple deduction.”

“The game is afoot!”

“Murder is an insidious thing, Watson. Once a man has dipped his fingers in blood, sooner or later he’ll feel the urge to kill again.”

“A great detective relies on perception, intelligence, and imagination.”

“At the moment I suspect no one and everyone.”

“You’ve a magnificent brain, Moriarty. I admire it. I admire it so much I’d like to present it pickled in alcohol to the London Medical Society.”

“There’s no doubt about it in my mind. Or perhaps I should say, in my imagination. For that’s where crimes are conceived and where they’re solved… in the imagination.”

 

 

 

21     The Wicked Witch of the West (The Wizard of Oz)

I must admit that I have not read the 1995 novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West or seen the award winning musical based on that book. However, I grew up loving the 1939 classic, and also enjoyed a 2013 film called Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel that explores the origin stories of The Wizard, Glenda the Good Witch, & The Wicked Witch. In the prequel the witches are presented as three sisters: Glinda, Evanora, & Theodora, all daughters of the late King of Oz. Evanora is already evil when we meet her…she is the Wicked Witch of the East. It is Evanora who manipulates Theodora into believing that Oscar Diggs…the eventual Wizard of Oz…has screwed her over. Theodora is heartbroken since she has fallen for Oscar, but once she has been convinced of his bad intentions she is easily persuaded by Evanora to eat a magic apple to cure her sadness. Instead the apple turns Theodora into a hideously green witch that completes her transformation, which is really well done thanks to modern special effects. I’m one of those people who rather enjoys a good backstory in a prequel/sequel as long as it is well-written & makes sense. For example, I hate how the newest reboot in the Halloween series dismisses the idea of Michael Myers being Laurie Strode’s brother (a concept presented in 1981’s Halloween II) because I think that relationship made a lot of sense and was a cool twist. Theodora’s conversion into The Wicked Witch of the West is the most interesting part of an otherwise average (at best) movie. But of course it’d be almost impossible to live up to the standard of the original film, when nasty, bike riding, dog hating Almira Gulch becomes The Wicked Witch of the West during a really vivid dream (maybe). In 2003 The Wicked Witch of the West was 4th on the American Film Institute’s list of 50 Greatest Villains, and nearly a century after the movie’s theatrical release the character is still frightening children of all ages.

 

Quotes

“I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog too!”

“I’m melting! Melting!”

 

 

20     Captain Quint (Jaws)

Every sequel that followed Spielberg’s 1975 original failed in one way or another. There are a ton of reasons for those disappointments, but maybe one explanation could be the absence of Robert Shaw as shark hunter Quint. Before co-starring in Jaws Shaw had already been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1966, although her lost to Walter Matthau. Shaw had also found great fame & success after co-starring with Sean Connery in the second James Bond film From Russia with Love. He was reluctant to sign on for Jaws because he didn’t particularly care for Peter Benchley’s novel, but ultimately was persuaded to take the role and we’re all better off for that. Jaws is one of the few examples where the movie is exponentially better than the book, and Shaw’s performance is a key factor. Quint’s haunting speech about the 1945 sinking of the USS Indianapolis might be one of the greatest monologues on film, and his death scene is epic.

 

Quotes

“Here lies the body of Mary Lee, died at the age of 103. For fifteen years she kept her virginity. Not a bad record for this vicinity.”

“I’ll catch this bird for you, but it ain’t gonna be easy. Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills & tommycods. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin’, little tenderizin’, down you go. And we gotta do it quick, that’ll bring back the tourists, that’ll put all your businesses on a payin’ basis. But it’s not gonna be pleasant! I value my neck a lot more than $3000, Chief. I’ll find him for three, but I’ll catch him, and kill him, for ten. But you’ve gotta make up your minds. If you want to stay alive, then ante up. If you want to play it cheap, be on welfare the whole winter. I don’t want no volunteers, I don’t want no mates, there’s too many captains on this island. $10,000 for me by myself. For that you get the head, the tail, the whole damn thing.”

“1100 men went into the water. Vessel went down in 12 minutes. Didn’t see the first shark for about half an hour. A tiger, 13 footer – you know how you know that when you’re in the water, Chief? You tell by lookin’ from the dorsal to the tail. What we didn’t know was our bomb mission had been so secret, no distress signal had been sent. They didn’t even list us overdue for a week. Very first light, Chief, sharks come cruisin’. So we formed ourselves into tight groups. And the idea was, the shark comes to the nearest man and he starts poundin’ & hollerin’ & screamin’. Sometimes the shark go away… sometimes he wouldn’t go away. Sometimes that shark, he looks right into your eyes. Y’know, the thing about a shark, he’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes. When he comes after ya, he doesn’t seem to be livin’ until he bites ya, and those black eyes roll over white, and then… aww, then you hear that terrible, high-pitched screamin’, the ocean turns red, and in spite of all the poundin’ and the hollerin’, they all come in and… rip ya to pieces. You know, by the end of that first dawn, we lost a hundred men. I don’t know how many sharks, maybe a thousand. I don’t know how many men. They averaged six an hour. Noon the fifth day, Mr. Hooper, a Lockheed Ventura saw us. He swung in low and he saw us. He was a young pilot, a lot younger than Mr. Hooper. Anyway, he saw us and he come in low and three hours later, a big fat PBY comes down and start to pick us up. You know, that was the time I was most frightened – waitin’ for my turn. I’ll never put on a life jacket again. So, 1100 men went in the water, 316 come out, and the sharks took the rest, June 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.”

 

 

19     Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Scent of a Woman)

Al Pacino has been nominated for nine Academy Awards, but his only win came as a result of portraying blind, angry, & suicidal retired Army officer Frank Slade. While The Godfather, Glengarry Glen Ross, and others might be better films, there’s little doubt that Slade is Pacino’s best performance. He carries an otherwise pedestrian movie on his back, chewing enough scenery along the way to feed a small village.

 

Quotes

“Women! What could you say? Who made ’em? God must have been a genius. The hair…they say the hair is everything, you know. Have you ever buried your nose in a mountain of curls…just wanted to go to sleep forever? Or lips… and when they touched, yours were like…that first swallow of wine after you just crossed the desert.”

“You got integrity Charlie. I don’t know whether to shoot you or adopt you.”

“I’m just gettin’ warmed up! I don’t know who went to this place, William Howard Taft, William Jennings Bryan, William Tell, whoever. Their spirit is dead; if they ever had one, it’s gone. You’re building a rat ship here, a vessel for sea-going snitches. And if you think you’re preparing these minnows for manhood, you better think again. Because I say you are killing the very spirit this institution proclaims it instills! What a sham! What kind of show are you guys puttin’ on here today? I mean, the only class in this act is sittin’ next to me. And I’m here to tell you, this boy’s soul is intact. It’s non-negotiable. You don’t know what out of order is Mr. Trask. I’d show you, but I’m too old, I’m too tired, I’m too fuckin’ blind. If I were the man I was five years ago, I’d take a FLAMETHROWER to this place! Out of order?! Who the hell you think you’re talking to?! I’ve been around, you know? There was a time I could see! And I have seen…boys like these, younger than these, their arms torn out, their legs ripped off! But there is nothing like the sight of an amputated spirit. There is no prosthetic for that. You think you’re merely sending this splendid foot-soldier back home to Oregon with his tail between his legs, but I say you are executing his soul! And why? Because he’s not a “Baird man”. Baird men. You hurt this boy, you’re going to be Baird bums, the lot of ya.”

 

 

18     Inspector Clouseau (The Pink Panther Series)

When I was a kid The Pink Panther was an animated pitchman for insulation. It wasn’t until I was a little older that I discovered the film series starring Peter Sellers as a hopelessly inept French detective who obliviously wreaks havoc everywhere he goes. Sellers starred in a half dozen Panther movies, with Alan Arkin, Steve Martin, & Roger Moore taking on the role in other offerings that should be mostly ignored. By far the best of the lot is 1964’s A Shot in the Dark, which finds Clouseau investigating the murder of an elderly millionaire’s chauffeur. Sellers had a long & successful career that included multiple Academy Award nominations and Golden Globe wins, but his greatest legacy is Clouseau.

 

Quotes

“Facts! Nothing matters but the facts. Without them the science of criminal investigation is nothing more than a guessing game.”

I believe everything and I believe nothing. I suspect everyone and I suspect no one.”

“We must accelerate out training program. You must learn to attack me whenever and wherever I least expect it. And you, you must give no quarter.

“You fool! You have broken my pointing stick! I have nothing to point with now!”

 

 

17     Harry Potter (The Harry Potter Series)

Millennials are freaking out right now because they think I’ve ranked their beloved cinematic hero way too low. Well, okay…you are entitled to your opinion. However, let me clarify a couple of things. First of all, I am slightly older, so I didn’t experience Potter-mania during my formative youth. It took me a few years to jump on the bandwagon and I was about 30 years old. Secondly, I don’t think the movies even approach the brilliance of the books. Having said that, there is no denying that The Boy Who Lived and the world that was created around him have had a huge impact on pop culture in the past two decades. When author JK Rowling signed a movie deal in 1999 a seven month search to cast the title role ended when producers discovered 11 year old Daniel Radcliffe, and it turned out to be a brilliant choice. It cannot be an easy task to bring a literary icon to life, especially for such a young kid. That’s a heavy responsibility. Fortunately Radcliffe was up to the challenge and an entire generation couldn’t imagine anyone else as Harry. Thru eight films over the course of a decade we watch him grow from a scared & confused young lad to a confident & brave teenager who ultimately defeats Lord Voldemort and saves the entire wizarding world. Contrary to some religious folks who stay away from Harry Potter and its sorcery I see a lot of very spiritual themes in the story, not the least of which is good triumphing over evil.

 

Quotes

“He was their friend, and he betrayed them. HE WAS THEIR FRIEND! I hope he finds me cause when he does I’m gonna be ready! When he does, I’m gonna kill him!”

“I didn’t put my name in that cup. I don’t want eternal glory.”

“Working hard is important. But there is something that matters even more…believing in yourself. Think of it this way; every great wizard in history has started out as nothing more than what we are now: students. If they can do it, why not us?”

 

 

16     Ferris Bueller (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off)

Movies & TV shows set in high school are a tried & true entertainment staple, and frequently feature a character who is popular with everyone except the principal, is enviably cool & charming, thumbs their nose at authority, and gets away with all sorts of hijinks. However, I submit to you that every other character in that mold is a poor imitation of Chicago’s own Ferris Bueller, who takes his girlfriend Sloane & morose best pal Cameron on the ultimate Senior Skip Day, all while his clueless parents think he’s at home sick in bed. The only people who are onto the young scalawag are his cynical sister Jeannie and Ed Rooney, the hapless principal. Ferris Bueller, as embodied by young Matthew Broderick, isn’t particularly cool or sexy, like the stereotypical jock you see in too many movies. He isn’t the formulaic nerd. Neither his popularity with students nor the reasons for Rooney’s disdain are explored deeply because it doesn’t matter…we take those things at face value and just enjoy the kind of innocent adventure we all wish we could have had when we were that age.

 

Quotes

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

 

 

 

15     Khan Noonien Singh (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan)

Khan first appeared on a Season 1 episode of TOS called “Space Seed”, during which The Enterprise stumbles upon a ship full of Earthlings in suspended animation. Khan is a genetically engineered superhuman with evil intentions, but his plan is foiled by Captain Kirk and he is exiled on a remote planet. Fifteen years later Khan & Kirk battled on the big screen in what most believe to be the best Trek film. In between actor Ricardo Montalban had moved on to his most famous role as Mr. Roarke on ABC’s Fantasy Island from 1980-85, but Trekkies everywhere are glad he revisited the role of Khan. The odd combination of Khan’s superior strength & warrior mentality and Montalban’s suave Mexican accent, as well as his fondness for quoting Moby Dick, serve to make the character that much more memorable,

 

Quotes

“Ceti Alpha VI exploded six months after we were left here. The shock shifted the orbit of this planet, and everything was laid waste. Admiral Kirk never bothered to check on our progress! It was only the fact of my genetically-engineered intellect that allowed us to survive.”

“I’ve done far worse than kill you. I’ve hurt you, and I wish to go on hurting you. I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her…marooned for all eternity in the center of a dead planet, buried alive.”

“He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him. I’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before I give him up!”

 

 

14     Don Vito Corleone (The Godfather & The Godfather Part II)

One of the more interesting bits of Academy Awards trivia is that Don Corleone is one of only two characters that won awards for different actors. Marlon Brando won Best Actor in 1972 for the original Godfather, while Robert DeNiro won Best Supporting Actor for his turn as young Vito in the 1974 sequel (Heath Ledger &  Joaquin Phoenix.achieved similar acclaim portraying The Joker). Brando was the top choice of the novel’s author Mario Puzo to portray Don Corleone, although the film studio preferred Ernest Borgnine, George C. Scott, Orson Welles, or Anthony Quinn (thank God Puzo prevailed). Brando famously stuck cotton balls in his cheeks and put shoe polish in his hair to darken it, which is the kind of small quirk that helps a character stand out. The Godfather and The Godfather Part II are both nearly flawless films, with Brando & DeNiro’s interpretations of Vito Corleone a huge reason why

 

Quotes

“Why did you go to the police? Why didn’t you come to me first? We’ve known each other many years, but this is the first time you ever came to me for counsel or for help. I can’t remember the last time that you invited me to your house for a cup of coffee, even though my wife is godmother to your only child. But let’s be frank here. You never wanted my friendship and you were afraid to be in my debt. You found paradise in America, you had a good trade. You made a good living, the police protected you, and there were courts of law. You didn’t need a friend like me. But, now you come to me, and you say: “Don Corleone, give me justice.” But you don’t ask with respect. You don’t offer friendship. You don’t even think to call me Godfather. Instead, you come into my house on the day my daughter is to be married, and you ask me to do murder for money. What have I ever done to make you treat me so disrespectfully? If you’d come to me in friendship, then that scum that ruined your daughter would be suffering this very day. And if by chance an honest man like yourself should make enemies, then they would become my enemies. And then they would fear you.”

“Someday…and that day may never come…I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this justice as a gift on my daughter’s wedding day.”

“I want no inquiries made. I want no acts of vengeance. I want you to arrange a meeting with the heads of the Five Families. This war stops now.”

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

“I want you to use all your powers, and all your skills. I don’t want his mother to see him this way. Look how they massacred my boy.”

“I have a lot of friends in politics, but they wouldn’t be friendly very long if they knew my business was drugs instead of gambling, which they regard as a harmless vice. But drugs is a dirty business.”

“I spent my whole life trying not to be careless. Women & children can afford to be careless, but not men.”

“Tattaglia’s a pimp. He never could’ve outfought Santino, but I didn’t know until this day that it was Barzini all along.”

“I never wanted this for you. I worked my whole life…I don’t apologize…to take care of my family. And I refused to be a fool dancing on a string held by all of those big shots. I don’t apologize. That’s my life, but I thought that when it was your time, that you would be the one to hold the strings. Senator Corleone. Governor Corleone. Something. There wasn’t enough time, Michael. Wasn’t enough time.”

“I have a sentimental weakness for my children, and I spoil them, as you can see. They talk when they should listen.”

 

 

13     Dracula & Frankenstein (various films)

I don’t have children and don’t pay all that much attention to Halloween or trick-or-treat, but I know that trends in costumes vary annually based on who’s in the news and what pop culture is offering. However, I’m willing to bet that Dracula & Frankenstein still sell their fair share of costumes each year no matter what the most popular characters du jour happen to be. Both novels are fantastic, and if you are so inclined I always encourage people to read them. Mary Shelley published Frankenstein in 1818, while Bram Stoker wrote Dracula in 1897. Most probably have a general idea of what the stories are about so I’ll spare you a rehash. Dracula has appeared in atleast 200 movies since the 1920’s, everything from straightforward adaptations of the book to comedic parodies like 1979’s Love at First Bite to animated fare. My favorites are the 1931 Dracula starring Bela Lugosi, which is fairly mild in comparison to modern horror films, and Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (they meet Dracula too), which is the kind of comedic scary entertainment I gravitate toward every October. Frankenstein has been featured in dozens of films since the Silent Era, with my favorites being the 1931 Frankenstein with Boris Karloff, the aforementioned Abbott & Costello spoof, and Mel Brooks’ 1974 hilarious classic Young Frankenstein.

 

Quotes

“Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.” (Dracula)

“You are too late. My blood now flows through her veins. She will live through the centuries to come, as I have lived.” (Dracula)

“To die, to be really dead, that must be glorious! There are far worse things awaiting man than death.” (Dracula)

“For as long as I can remember, people have hated me. They looked at my face and my body and they ran away in horror. In my loneliness I decided that if I could not inspire love, which was my deepest hope, I would instead cause fear. I live because this poor, half-crazed genius has given me life. He alone held an image of me as something beautiful. And then, when it would have been easy enough to stay out of danger, he used his own body as a guinea pig to give me a calmer brain and a somewhat more sophisticated way of expressing myself.” (Frankenstein)

 

 

12     Han Solo, Princess Leia, & Luke Skywalker (The Star Wars Trilogy)

I know, I know…it’s a cop-out to tie these three. Guilty as charged. Having said that, I don’t see any way around it. If the prequels & sequels taught us anything it’s that we needed this trio…all three of them…together. They each bring something a little different to the table, and it takes all of them to bring peace to a galaxy far far away. It’s a damn shame that the idiots at Disney squandered an opportunity to bring them together again, and now that chance is lost forever.

 

Quotes

“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” (Princess Leia)

“It’s the ship that made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.” (Han Solo)

“I’ll never turn to the dark side. You’ve failed, your highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” (Luke Skywalker)

“Somebody has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, flyboy.” (Princess Leia)

“Never tell me the odds!” (Han Solo)

“I won’t fail you. I’m not afraid.” (Luke Skywalker)

“You know, sometimes I amaze even myself.” (Han Solo)

 

 

11     Willy Wonka (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory)

Author Roald Dahl published Charlie & the Chocolate Factory in 1964, with the film adaptation arriving less than a decade later. Dahl helped write the screenplay but didn’t like the finished product for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons can be found in the title. The movie focuses much more on Wonka than it does the book’s main protagonist, 11 year old Charlie Bucket. One can only guess why such a change was made, but one factor may have been the casting of Gene Wilder, a known entity who had been nominated for an Oscar just a couple of years before. Wilder portrays Wonka in such a way that the viewer isn’t quite sure what to think. Is he crazy, or harmlessly eccentric?? Is he clueless, or does he know exactly what he’s doing?? We concede that he’s a bit odd, but we like him anyway, and that’s important. Characters like Willie Wonka are tricky, especially thru the prism of modern sensibilities when we’re taught to be somewhat wary of certain types of weirdos, but Wilder pulls it off. It’s a shame Dahl was so displeased with the film because it prevented the sequel…Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator…from being made, and it would’ve been cool to see Gene Wilder get a second opportunity to bring Willy Wonka to life.

 

Quotes

“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world… there’s nothing to it.”

“A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men.”

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”

 

 

 

Stay tuned for the Top 10…coming…soon-ish.

90’s Film Frenzy: Fly Round 3

In the early rounds of 90’s Film Frenzy I provided y’all with as much information as I could about each movie, including the big stars we allegedly flock to the theater to see. That is all well & good, but I think there is much more that goes into one’s enjoyment of a film. The old adage is that little things mean a lot, and we shouldn’t overlook all the small things that can add up to a movie really being a fun experience. What’s the setting?? Is it a small town, big city, or foreign locale?? Don’t forget about music. I happen to think that a film’s soundtrack can be a huge contributor to its success. And while everyone focuses on the lead actors I feel like we should give some love to those with supporting roles and even the “character actors” who might only have a scene or two but make the most out of it. These are some of the things I am focusing on in the third round of this competition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forrest Gump                                vs.              Die Hard: With A Vengeance

After receiving a first round bye Forrest Gump got past Presumed Innocent in Round 2 in a contrast of two films based on novels. As good as Presumed Innocent the movie is the book is way better. Conversely, I’ve heard mixed reviews of Forrest Gump the book, to the point that I’m afraid to read it and have it ruin my feelings about the movie. The book’s author actually wrote a sequel called Gump & Co., but thus far it hasn’t been translated to film and it probably won’t be, especially since Tom Hanks has expressed misgivings about portraying the title character again. My affection for Forrest Gump is such that I am amazed that it isn’t universally loved, but there are detractors out there. It’s 72% Rotten Tomatoes score is good, but nowhere near some other films in the competition that have ratings of 90% or more. Some folks think it is manipulative, overly sentimental, tiresome, & not as historically accurate as it could’ve been. There is no shortage of people who believe that Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption should’ve won the Academy Award for Best Picture as well as the Oscars for Best Actor & Best Director. I disagree with all of that. Even my father loves Forrest Gump, and trust me…Dad & I rarely share similar tastes in entertainment. Die Hard: With a Vengeance wouldn’t even be in this competition if it had been the final Die Hard film since trilogies are disqualified. Alas, two additional (subpar) movies were made in the series with one last hurrah allegedly on the way, so Vengeance gets its well-deserved kudos. The difference between this third entry and its predecessor…1990’s Die Hard 2…is the addition of Samuel L. Jackson as Detective McClane’s reluctant sidekick. It was Jackson’s follow-up to Pulp Fiction and immediately preceded his role in A Time to Kill, meaning he was on a pretty good roll at the time. The filmmakers knew they had to mix things up in the third film because Die Hard 2 was a fairly tepid rehash of the original premise. Jackson breathes new life into the story, injecting additional humor & attitude. He & Bruce Willis play off of each other quite well.

 

The Verdict:       Forrest Gump. Though it made it into the competition thru a loophole, the fact is that Vengeance isn’t nearly as great as the original Die Hard. Sequels are tough. They (usually) get made because the first movie was so good and made a lot of money, but that will always mean unfair comparisons right from the start. Forrest Gump is like a golfer that always finishes second in major tournaments…as good as it is there are people all too willing to point out its flaws. But whether or not you believe it deserved all the accolades it received back in 1994, the fact is that being the #1 film at the box office & winning a half dozen Academy Awards isn’t something I can overlook, especially when it comes to a movie that I stop everything to watch almost every single time it is on TV.

 

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The Fugitive                                   vs.              The Wedding Singer

This is a tough one. I love The Wedding Singer because of its many nods to 80’s pop culture that stir up memories of my long lost youth. The soundtrack is fantastic, with songs from the likes of Culture Club, The Police, Elvis Costello, The Thompson Twins, Billy Idol (who also has a fun cameo in the movie), Spandau Ballet, Hall & Oates, The Cure, Kool & The Gang, Bruce Springsteen, and a few others. That’s quite a lineup. I also want to give a nod to brief appearances by Jon Lovitz & Steve Buschemi. I normally find Lovitz unamusing and mostly dreadful, but his scene in The Wedding Singer is actually quite entertaining. I’m kind of surprised that someone didn’t come up with the idea of a sequel starring Buschemi & Lovitz as new wedding singers. It is my understanding that the film was adapted into a stage musical (kind of a reverse Rock of Ages situation), and I must say that I’d totally go see that show. The Fugitive got past Joe Versus the Volcano in Round 2, which broke my heart because I feel like JVtV is a profound & underappreciated gem. Conversely, appreciation abounds for The Fugitive, with a damn near perfect 96% score from the critics and seven Oscar nominations. I’ve watched The Fugitive countless times, but there is a scene in which Dr. Kimble finds himself in the stairwell of a huge building facing off against Lt. Gerard before narrowly escaping thru downtown Chicago’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, and no matter how many times I’ve seen it I still feel a palpable sense of drama and tension. Actually there are a few scenes like that, and when a filmmaker can still make the viewer buy into the suspense even when we’ve seen it a bunch of times and know exactly what’s going to happen…well folks, that’s what I call great entertainment.

 

The Verdict:       The Fugitive. These choices are becoming harder & harder, but sometimes I’ve got to pick nits. Ninety percent of the time I’ll lean toward an easygoing comedy, and The Wedding Singer gets bonus points for fantastic music & delightful Sandler/Barrymore chemistry. However, The Fugitive is special. It creates drama without a lot of gratuitous violence, and there is really only one big, explosive action sequence. The rest is just brilliant writing and superb performances.

 

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Billy Madison                                 vs.              Office Space

Back to back Sandler…which nowadays would be a cringe worthy waste of time, but two decades ago that wasn’t the case. Unlike The Wedding Singer, which is a more subdued & pleasant performance, Billy Madison is full on Sandler being Sandler, playing the kind of infantile ne’er-do-well that has largely defined peoples’ perception of him as an actor. This film & Happy Gilmore will always be the first two things that pop into the average cinephile’s mind when Sandler is the topic of conversation, and I don’t think that’s such a terrible thing. Fans of The West Wing will appreciate Bradley Whitford’s appearance as devious businessman Eric, Billy’s nemesis. Christmas film aficionados will delight in seeing A Christmas Story’s Old Man…Darren McGavin…as Billy’s wealthy yet exasperated father. I’m somewhat surprised that the vivacious Bridgette Wilson (wife of tennis legend Pete Sampras) never became a big star, but Billy Madison & 2001’s The Wedding Planner are among her few career highlights, and she hasn’t done any notable acting work since 2008. Office Space got a first round bye before beating out Spielberg’s expensive flop Hook in Round 2. According to my limited research the definition of a cult classic is…flexible…but typically focuses more on obscure & unconventional films shunned by the mainstream. Office Space would seem to qualify since it made less than $11 million during its theatrical run. In comparison, the budget for 1999’s highest grossing film… Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace…was over $115 million and it made $431 million. But Office Space would find new life on home video and come to be appreciated by anyone who has ever worked in an office environment, which is obviously a lot of people. It is one of the most quotable films of the 90’s, and has characters & situations that are very relatable. Jennifer Aniston was & is the film’s biggest star since she was right in the middle of her run on the hit TV show Friends at the time and has become even more well-known in the ensuing years, but other cast members like Ron Livingston, Stephen Root, Gary Cole, Diedrich Bader, & John C. McGinley have had solid careers (mostly on television). Like most of the general public movie critics pretty much ignored Office Space at first, but once it gained traction and reviews were written they were mostly favorable.

 

The Verdict:       Office Space. I’ve had several people tell me over the years that they thought I’d enjoy popular sitcom The Office, the original British incarnation of which premiered in 2001 and surely had to be somewhat influenced by the movie. However I must admit that I’ve never watched either version of The Office because I’m pretty old-fashioned and prefer multi-camera sitcoms with a live studio audience & laugh track…I just can’t embrace single camera sitcoms like The Office, Modern Family, Young Sheldon, & It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. I know I know…I’m probably missing out. At any rate, I can get my fix of corporate culture humor anytime by watching Office Space, and that’s good enough for me.

 

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Grumpy Old Men                                    vs.              Father of the Bride

There’s a Twix commercial that’s getting a lot of play on TV these days that amusingly compares ghosts & spirits, janitors & custodians, and morticians & undertakers, and these two movies could merit a similar appraisal. Both are amiable comedies that did well enough to spawn affable sequels. Both star older comedic actors instead of hot young Hollywood flavors of the month. Both did surprisingly well at the box office, while critics liked but didn’t love both films. I absolutely adore both films and will watch them whenever they’re on television, and sometimes I’ll stream one or the other when I’m bored & in the mood for a good flick. These are what I call comfort food movies. They warm the cockles and make me smile, which is all I really need a movie to do.

 

The Verdict:       Father of the Bride. I have decided against the cop out of a tie and will let the numbers be a tiebreaker. Father of the Bride did slightly better at the box office and the critics like it just a skosh more, so I defer to the will of the people. Personally I think both films are winners.

90’s Film Frenzy: Fly Round 2

Welcome back to Round 2 of 90’s Film Frenzy!! We went thru the Dope and Phat divisions a couple of weeks ago and I apologize for the delay. I won’t bore y’all with a long preamble because discussion of these great movies is lengthy enough, but let me take this opportunity to wish The Manoverse a delightful Labor Day Weekend. The catch-22 of this time of year is that summer is ending, which signifies colder weather & gloomier skies in the not-so-distant future, but it also means football is back and a few other fun things about autumn, so let us not despair. Have fun and enjoy life!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Forrest Gump

Release:    7/6/94

Starring:     Tom Hanks, Robin Wright, Sally Field, Gary Sinise

Directed By:        Robert Zemeckis (Romancing the Stone, The Back to the Future Trilogy, Cast Away)

 

vs.

 

Presumed Innocent

 

Quotes

It is a practical impossibility to try two people for the same crime. Even if it wasn’t, I couldn’t take his mother from my son.

 

You understand what happened had to happen. It couldn’t have turned out any other way. A woman’s depressed…with herself, with life. With her husband, who had made life possible for her…until he was bewitched by another woman. A destroyer. Abandoned…like someone left for dead…she plans her suicide…until the dream begins. In the dream, the destroyer is destroyed. That’s a dream worth living for.

 

Odds & Ends

Before the book was published in August 1987 producer Sydney Pollack purchased the rights to the film for $1 million.

 

Harrison Ford’s hair was cut in such a way to make him look “wimpier” than his previous brave leading man roles.

 

Kevin Costner and Robert Redford turned down the role of Rusty Sabich.

 

_______________________

Tom Hanks followed his Oscar winning role in Philadelphia with Forrest Gump, for which he won a second consecutive Academy Award for Best Actor. Gump is based on a 1986 novel by Winston Groom. I’ve pondered the idea of reading the book because I am generally inclined to believe a book is usually better than the movie, but most of the time the film closely follows the original story and the reason the book is better is a matter of subplots & nuance that might have been cut from the movie. However, it is my understanding that Forrest Gump the film completely alters the tone and character development of Forrest Gump the book, so I have been hesitant to read it lest it diminish my affection for the movie. At any rate, the film essentially tells diverging stories of two childhood friends who grew up in 1950’s Alabama. The titular Forrest is what we might now call a “special needs student” or a “low IQ learner”, but he defies the odds by graduating from college, serving in Vietnam, becoming an international ping pong star, meeting multiple U.S. Presidents, and eventually co-founding a successful shrimping business. The love of his life…Jenny…isn’t so lucky. She is abused by her father at a young age, works as a stripper, gets involved with drugs, becomes a hippie, & eventually dies from a mysterious disease (likely either AIDS or hepatitis). Forrest Gump shows these two lives diverging & intersecting at various times, and is unique in its ability to make the viewer chuckle one moment and shed a tear two seconds later. It actually won six Academy Awards, including Best Director (Zemeckis), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture (beating out Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption). It was the #1 film at the box office in 1994 and holds a 72% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Boston Globe called it “a one-of-a-kind treat”. The NY Daily News had a really interesting take, observing that “what looks at first like a bright, bouncy, & sentimental trip through the baby-boom era turns out, on closer inspection, to be a dark and driven work, haunted by violence, cruelty, & a sense of the tragically absurd” but goes on to say that “where most American movies of the ’90s strike a single note over & over, Forrest Gump is a symphony” that is “an original and deeply moving experience”. People Magazine thought it a “plodding, heavy-handed parable”, while Rolling Stone called it a “heart-breaker of oddball wit & startling grace” and our old pal Ebert simply referred to it as “a magical movie”. Presumed Innocent got past Honeymoon in Vegas in Round 1 because an 87% Rotten Tomatoes score is pretty hard to overlook and I really loved the book back in the day. Harrison Ford is a tremendously talented actor that shouldn’t be pigeonholed as Han Solo, Jack Ryan, or Indiana Jones. Some of his best work has been in films that didn’t get any sequels.

 

The Verdict:       Forrest Gump. Just a really tough draw for Presumed Innocent. Between books, TV, & movies the entertainment landscape is overflowing with legal dramas, and the public’s thirst for such stories has made “true crime” a powerful sub-genre. Amongst Forrest Gump’s many strengths is its distinctiveness…there aren’t many comparable stories, so this is sort of like lobster versus a gourmet hamburger…it may be perfectly cooked with loads of flavor, but at the end of the day it’s still a hamburger.

 

 

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The Fugitive

Release:    8/6/93

Starring:     Harrison Ford, Tommy Lee Jones

Directed By:        Andrew Davis (Above the Law, Under Seige)

 

vs.

 

Joe Versus the Volcano

 

Quotes

I don’t know what your situation is but I wanted you to know what mine is not just to explain some rude behavior, but because we’re on a little boat for a while and I’m soul sick…and you’re going to see that.

 

Do you think I feel good? Nobody feels good. After childhood, it’s a fact of life. I feel rotten. So what? I don’t let it bother me. I don’t let it interfere with my job.

 

90% of people are asleep, and those of who are awake look around us in wonder.

 

I have no interest in myself. I think about myself, I get bored out of my mind.

 

My father says almost the whole world’s asleep. Everybody you know, everybody you see, everybody you talk to. He says only a few people are awake. And they live in a state of constant, total amazement.

 

You have some life left. My advice to you is: live it well.

 

I ask myself, why have I put up with you? I can’t imagine, but now I know. Fear. Yellow freakin’ fear. I’ve been too chicken shit afraid to live my life so I sold it to you for 300 freakin’ dollars a week!

 

I don’t know who you are. I don’t want to know. It’s taken me my whole life to find out who I am, and I’m tired now.

 

There are certain times in your life when I guess you’re not supposed to have anybody. There are certain doors you have to go through alone.

 

If you have a choice between killing yourself and doing something you’re scared of doing, why not take the leap and do the thing you’re scared of doing?

 

Odds & Ends

The lamp that Joe brings into his office displays future events in the movie, including the yacht, a volcano, & a large full moon.

 

If one really pays attention you’ll notice several references to losing one’s soul.

 

The coordinates that Patricia gives… -10.1333, -150.3…places the island ten miles SSW of Caroline Island in the South Pacific.

 

______________________

 

Hey…more Harrison Ford!! Back in the mid-60’s ABC aired four seasons of a drama about a doctor wrongly convicted of murdering his wife and his vagabond lifestyle as he eluded law enforcement while searching for the one-armed man that he claimed was the real killer. Dr. Richard Kimble would move from town to town under an assumed name, work at various menial jobs, and inevitably risk being caught to help someone in need. The 1967 series finale was the most watched television show in history until the 1980 episode of Dallas during which the answer to the question “Who shot J.R.??” is revealed. The Fugitive aired on television long before I was a gleam in my Daddy’s eye, but at some point in the 80’s one channel or another began showing reruns and I was hooked. The big screen adaptation condenses the time frame and changes a few minor details, but retains the spirit of the original premise. It was the third highest grossing film of 1993, has a stellar 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, though the only one it took home was Best Supporting Actor for Tommy Lee Jones. Best Picture went to Schindler’s List, which is exactly the kind of thing one would expect from the Oscars, while Jones beat out Leonardo DiCaprio (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) and John Malkovich (In the Line of Fire) for his award. Joe Versus the Volcano benefitted from a total cop out from Yours Truly in Round 1, tying Hook and therefore moving forward in the competition. Here’s the thing about JVtV…if you watch it as if it is just a silly rom-com it’ll be slightly weird, mostly enjoyable, but ultimately forgettable. However, if you recognize the symbolism, value the metaphor, and truly grasp the existential subtext it will blow your freakin’ mind. I kinda sorta understood it on my own, but there is a video on YouTube that really explains everything that one might have missed about JVtV, and I highly recommend re-watching the movie thru that prism. I’ve seen it called “a near-masterpiece of cinema”. It is about life. It is about death. It is about morality & spirituality. It is about values. It is about heroism. It is about failure. It is about destiny. Everyone who has ever had a job they despised can appreciate the first twenty minutes of JVtV, and anyone who can get thru those depressing twenty minutes will thoroughly enjoy the rest of the journey.

 

The Verdict:       The Fugitive. I feel really guilty about this one. JVtV deserves a better outcome. But I have to be honest, and the truth is that anytime The Fugitive is on I will stop and watch. Ford & Jones have never been better. The film’s tense moments are so well done, and frivolous action & violence are minimal. The strength of Joe Versus the Volcano is also its weakness. If one chooses to simply enjoy it as just another silly rom-com it gets lost in the shuffle amidst movies that are funnier and more romantic, charming, & quotable. But if one makes the correct choice to recognize the imagery & meaning behind it all then it ceases to become the kind of breezy & watchable escapism that a good movie should be. It is a film best reserved for those rare moments of philosophical self-reflection.

 

 

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Billy Madison

Release:    2/10/95

Starring:     Adam Sandler

Directed By:        Tamra Davis (Half Baked)

 

vs.

 

The American President

 

Quotes

Being President of this country is entirely about character. America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad.

 

You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and hand guns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door-to-door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.

 

The American people have a funny way of deciding on their own what is and what is not their business.

 

Somewhere in Libya right now a janitor’s working the night shift at Libyan intelligence headquarters. He’s going about doing his job because he has no idea that in about an hour he’s going to die in a massive explosion. He has no idea that about an hour ago I gave an order to have him killed. You’ve just seen me do the least Presidential thing I do.

 

Perhaps I didn’t properly explain the fundamentals of the slowdown plan.

 

People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.

 

Odds & Ends

The telephone number President Shepherd gives Sydney to call him back (456-1414) is in fact the number to the White House (area code 202).

 

Robert Redford was originally cast in the lead role, but was replaced with Michael Douglas after a falling out with Rob Reiner.

 

Early versions of the script depicted President Andrew Shepherd as a military veteran and former Special Ops Agent. Rob Reiner discussed the lead role with Bruce Willis and Steven Seagal before Aaron Sorkin’s re-writes transitioned Shepherd to a more academic character.

 

The screenplay for the film inspired many aspects of Sorkin’s later television drama The West Wing. The two productions follow the staff of a largely idealized White House, and like many of Sorkin’s projects, share ideologies. Even the set of the Oval Office in The American President was later used in The West Wing. Sorkin has indicated that much of the first season of The West Wing was actually taken from material he edited out of the first draft of The American President script.

 

___________________

Adam Sandler was a cast member on Saturday Night Live for the first half of the 1990s. He had bit parts in barely notable films like Shakes the Clown, Airheads, & Mixed Nuts while he was also doing SNL, but immediately following his departure from television he hit the ground running with Billy Madison, the story of a lazy & dim-witted 20-something coasting thru life in a state of arrested development and living off of his father’s hard earned wealth. When dear old Dad decides that one of his staff members would be more equipped to take over his business someday Billy objects, only to find out that the reason he made it thru grade school, middle school, & high school was because his father bribed teachers to pass him. Billy convinces his father to change his plan of succession on the condition that the young man complete twelve grades of school within six months. Hilarity ensues. Yes it is a bizarre & inane premise. Yes the critics hated it (46% on Rotten Tomatoes). Your 75 year old father probably doesn’t get it, and most teenagers won’t either, because Billy Madison is a very specific film for a smallish target audience. But more than two decades later those of us that got a chuckle out of Sandler’s antics back then are still watching Billy Madison now. It was the 65th highest grossing film of 1995, but a lot of movies that made more money that year…Major Payne, Rob Roy, Judge Dredd, Man of the House, The Net, Sabrina, Outbreak…have been forgotten, while television continues to air Billy Madison and people continue to watch. The American President slipped past Boogie Nights in Round 1 because I just can’t wrap my mind around a drama about the porn industry, and because it eventually sparked a greater legacy called The West Wing, one of the finest television shows of the past quarter century. Michael Douglas is an underrated actor and Annette Bening can be compelling in the right role. They both shine in lighthearted fare that allows them to smile & laugh.

 

The Verdict:       Billy Madison. Aaron Sorkin should consider The American President a beta test for what eventually became his best creation. I don’t know if it was him or someone else, but somebody somewhere figured out that an idealistic rendition of The White House with a charming President, dogmatic & loyal staffers, and snappy dialogue would make a much better TV show than a movie. Adam Sandler isn’t everyone’s cup o’ tea and no one is saying that he’s ever made a great film, but Billy Madison is harmless fun that has weathered the sands of time.

 

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Grumpy Old Men

Release:    12/25/93

Starring:     Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann Margret

Directed By:        Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza, Miss Congeniality)

 

vs.

 

Mr. Saturday Night

Quotes

For me, my family was like, uh, Dances With Jews. Oh sure, we had names for our relatives like they had in that movie. We had “Eats With His Hands,” “Spits When He Talks,” “Makes Noise When He Bends,” “Sweats Like a Pig,” “Whines In a Cab,” “Never Buys Retail,” “Shaves His Back.”

 

Buddy, my whole life I listened to ya’ bellyache about your luck. Well, you are where you are because of who you are.

 

Odds & Ends

Marisa Tomei auditioned for the part of Buddy’s wife, Elaine, but was deemed too young for the role. Tomei later played Billy Crystal’s daughter in 2012’s Parental Guidance.

 

Billy Crystal’s directorial debut.

 

The film is based on a SNL Weekend Update sketch in which Billy Crystal plays Buddy Young Jr. reviewing a restaurant.

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Jack Lemmon & Walter Matthau starred in eleven movies together, the most famous of which is probably 1968’s The Odd Couple, an adaptation of Neil Simon’s stage play from a few years earlier. The play & film would eventually find its way to television in a series starring Tony Randall & Jack Klugman that ran thru the first half of the 1970s. Nearly three decades after their greatest success together the pair reunited in this charming comedy about two old geezers fighting over a woman. John Gustafson & Max Goldman are next door neighbors in the frozen tundra of Wabasha, MN. They spend their days fishing, drinking beer, watching TV, and insulting one other. We learn that they’ve known each other all of their lives but battled it out over a woman named Mae decades ago. Mae apparently chose John, but was unfaithful and eventually divorced him. Max ended up with a better woman (now deceased), but still harbors resentment over the one that got away. When a new lady moves in across the street…beautiful, slightly younger, & full of the spirit that Max & John lost long ago…the old rivalry finds new life. Grumpy Old Men was the 14th highest grossing film of 1993, ahead of Cool Runnings and Demolition Man but behind Free Willy and The Pelican Brief. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 62%, with the NY Times cautioning “don’t expect their bickering to be on the level of Neil Simon and you won’t be disappointed”, Ebert calling it “too pat and practiced to really be convincing”, the Washington Post advising that “if you poke through the cheap sentimentality you’ll find a worthy picture somewhere”, and Entertainment Weekly observing that “the shallow pratfalls hide richly funny observations”. Mr. Saturday Night upset Scream in the first round because horror movies just don’t frost my cupcake. If Billy Crystal were an employee at an average 9-5 business his boss would describe him as solid, dependable, trustworthy, & proficient. In Hollywood terms that means that he’s rarely brought up in discussions about the biggest, hottest, most talented top box office stars, but he has carved out a nice career that’s lasted several decades and produced some quality entertainment. Mr. Saturday Night is unlikely to appeal to anyone younger than 35, which obviously has a negative impact on the kinds of numbers that Hollywood deems important. If it were made today instead of 25 years ago it might be direct-to-video or more likely an original production of Netflix or Hulu, which would be fine. That’s the world we live in, right?? As a writer I recognize the movie’s flaws but also have to give kudos to some outstanding performances. Crystal is known to be a big baseball fan, and in that sport’s parlance I’ll call this movie a single stretched into a double thru good base running, but there is no one on base, two outs, and the next batter strikes out, rendering the previous play somewhat futile.

 

The Verdict:       Grumpy Old Men. I still love you Billy Crystal!!

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Father of the Bride

Release:    12/20/91

Starring:     Steve Martin, Kimberly Williams, Diane Keaton, Martin Short

Directed By:        Charles Shyer (Private Benjamin, Baby Boom)

 

vs.

 

City Slickers

 

Quotes

Value this time in your life kids, because this is the time in your life when you still have your choices, and it goes by so quickly. When you’re a teenager you think you can do anything, and you do. Your twenties are a blur. Your thirties, you raise your family, you make a little money and you think to yourself, “What happened to my twenties?” Your forties, you grow a little pot belly you grow another chin. The music starts to get too loud and one of your old girlfriends from high school becomes a grandmother. Your fifties you have a minor surgery. You’ll call it a procedure, but it’s a surgery. Your sixties you have a major surgery, the music is still loud but it doesn’t matter because you can’t hear it anyway. Seventies, you and the wife retire to Fort Lauderdale, you start eating dinner at two, lunch around ten, breakfast the night before. And you spend most of your time wandering around malls looking for the ultimate in soft yogurt and muttering “how come the kids don’t call?” By your eighties, you’ve had a major stroke, and you end up babbling to some Jamaican nurse who your wife can’t stand but who you call mama. Any questions?

 

Women need a reason to have sex, men just need a place.

 

Have you ever had that feeling that this is the best I’m ever gonna do, this is the best I’m ever gonna feel… and it ain’t that great?

 

We’re black and we’re dentists. Let’s not make an issue out of it.

 

We had different needs. I needed him to treat me decently and get a job, and he needed to empty my bank account and leave.

 

Ed, have you noticed that the older you get, the younger your girlfriends get? Soon you’ll be dating sperm.

 

Odds & Ends

The story that Billy Crystal tells about his “best day” of going to a Yankee game with his father is a true story from his childhood. He notes at one point that, “I still have the program.” Not only does he really still have it, but he got Mickey Mantle to autograph it twice: once at the game that day and once again some 20 years later on a talk show they were both guests on.

 

This was Jake Gyllenhaal’s film debut.

 

Billy Crystal is a diehard New York Yankees fan but wears a New York Mets cap in the film because the Mets made a major contribution to Comic Relief.

 

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See, I told you!! Billy Crystal is still in it to win it dawg!! City Slickers got past Hocus Pocus in Round 1 because who can deny the trifecta of an Academy Award, Crystal, and a 90% score from the critics?? Comedy is tricky. We like to divide everything into categories and stack things into neat little piles, but there are so many different kinds of comedy. When it comes to movies there are some that are just a jumbled mess that can’t decide what they are or the idea they are trying to convey. To my understanding the reason for that is oftentimes because so many writers, producers, directors, actors, & suits have tampered with the product in pre-production that by the time we see it on the big screen it’s like consuming a dish that dozens of cooks have had a hand in making without really communicating with one another, to the point that no one knows what the hell we’re eating. Conversely, great films have been infused with different flavors that are expertly blended, resulting in a pleasurable outcome. City Slickers is a cut above so many of the idiotic comedies that seem to find their way to our local cineplex in the 21st century. It actually has a point, with well-written characters that develop thru the story. None of the actors are the kind of popular hot commodities that seem to be in a different movie every other month, but the performances are tremendous and the cast gels together nicely. A sequel…called City Slickers II: The Legend of Curly’s Gold…was made a few years later, but the magic was gone, and it didn’t help that Jon Lovitz joined the cast. Lovitz ruins everything. Father of the Bride is a remake of a 1950 film starring Spencer Tracy and Elizabeth Taylor. Steve Martin plays the beleaguered father of a 20-something daughter who has just announced her engagement. Despite Dad’s dreams of a simple backyard BBQ wedding the bride-to-be and her mother have a different idea and hire a hilariously weird wedding planner. Dad’s a cheapskate who isn’t emotionally ready to let his little girl go, so the whole process is torturous & expensive for him, but everything works out just fine in the end. FotB was 9th highest grossing film of 1991 and has a solid 71% score on Rotten Tomatoes. In comparing the remake to the original the NY Times said “the material has been successfully refurbished with new jokes and new attitudes”. Ebert called it “a movie with heart” with “little moments in it when Martin is deeply moved”. Entertainment Weekly liked the “feel-good finale’, but wasn’t overly impressed by “the pat, amiable, and rather dawdling farce that preceded it”.

 

The Verdict:       Father of the Bride. I suppose one might consider it a slight upset. Most critics would probably say that City Slickers is clearly the better movie. For me it is largely about repeat viewings. As good as many seem to think it is, City Slickers just hasn’t popped up on television all that much in the past 27 years, and as such it is kind of easily forgotten. Father of the Bride, on the other hand, seems to be on an awful lot, and at some point in the past couple of decades I have developed a deep affection for it.

 

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Office Space

Release:    2/19/99

Starring:     Ron Livingston, Stephen Root, Gary Cole, Jennifer Aniston

Directed By:        Mike Judge (Beavis & Butt-Head Do America, Idiocracy)

 

vs.

 

Hook

 

Quotes

Oh, I hate being disappointed, Smee. And I hate living in this flawed body. And I hate living in Neverland. And I hate, I hate, I hate Peter Pan!

 

The stories are true! I swear to you! I swear to you on everything I hold dear! And now he’s come back to seek his revenge. The fight isn’t over for Captain James Hook. He wants you back. He knows that you’ll follow Jack and Maggie to the ends of the earth and beyond. And by heavens, you must find a way. Only you can save your children. Somehow, you must go back. You must make yourself remember.

 

Your children love you, they want to play with you. How long do you think that lasts? Just a few years, and it’s over. And you are not being careful. And you are missing it.

 

You know you’re not really Peter Pan, don’t you? This is only a dream. When you wake up, you’ll just be Peter Banning…a cold, selfish man who drinks too much, is obsessed with success, and runs & hides from his wife & children.

 

That is the same window and this is the same room where we made up bedtime stories telling about Peter, Neverland, and scary old Captain Hook. But did you know that Mr. Barrie… well, Sir James, our neighbor, he loved our stories so much that he wrote them all down in a book… oh dear me… eighty years ago.

 

Odds & Ends

The kissing couple who begin to float when some fairy dust lands on them are actually George Lucas and Carrie Fisher in a cameo.

 

Williams & Spielberg became close friends after making this film. Reportedly, after Williams’s death, Spielberg decided to watch this film out of remembrance but couldn’t finish it because he couldn’t stop crying for hours.

 

Maggie Smith, being only 56 years old at the time of filming, was aged up by makeup to play 92-year-old Granny Wendy.

 

Julia Roberts was nicknamed “Tinkerhell” because she was difficult to deal with, a reaction to her working conditions of solitude & a green screen.

 

Dustin Hoffman’s former co-star, Jon Voight, asked him if he could bring his children, James Haven and Angelina Jolie, to the set because they were “dying to meet Captain Hook.” Hoffman agreed to meet them while in costume. Jolie was 16 years old, and Hoffman described her as a “tall, thin, gawky-looking girl with a mouth full of braces.” After Jolie told Hoffman she was going to be an actress, Hoffman went home to his wife and said, “I don’t think this kid has any idea what a tough road she’s got.”

 

Steven Spielberg admitted to being disappointed with final result of the movie. He had such a hard time working with the rebellious crew of young actors that he later said, only somewhat kiddingly, that the experience made him wonder if he wanted to have any more kids. He also felt guilty that he wasn’t able to find an economical method to filming the many complex human-flight sequences in the film.

 

Gwyneth Paltrow appears briefly as the teenage Wendy.

 

Dustin Hoffman based the voice of Captain Hook on that of the columnist William F. Buckley.

 

Glenn Close, Phil Collins, Steven Spielberg, David Crosby, & Jimmy Buffett all make cameos.

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Office Space is the very definition of a cult classic. No one paid attention to it in theaters. It ranked 121st at the box office in 1999. 121st!! Something called The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland made more money. I knew nothing about it until 3 or 4 years later when a co-worker kept quoting it and told me how awesome it is. At the time he & I both worked at a place strikingly similar to the business depicted in the film. Actually I think anyone who has ever worked in any kind of office can see similarities between their reality and what we see onscreen, which is a huge reason Office Space became such a big hit on home video. The cast is filled with character actors that have never done much beyond supporting roles on both television & film, with the lone exception being Jennifer Aniston. In 1999 she was halfway thru her run as Rachel on Friends, and I guess she was supposed to help Office Space make money, but her role is smallish and not at all why people love the movie. Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 79% score, though most of those reviews were done in hindsight, long after it had gained traction and gained popularity. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that very few critics even bothered to watch it or write a review back in 1999. The Washington Post called it “a knowing, somewhat slight, often hilarious sendup of cubicle culture” that “exploits the yuks in the chronic misery of those routinely exposed to the monotonous gray of corporate minds and company décor”. Variety said it is “frequently uproarious”, Ebert observed that “movie’s dialogue is smart”, and the Village Voice dubbed it “a surprisingly good-natured comedy about the suppressed rage and paranoia of unappreciated employees”. As a perpetually underappreciated employee I must agree. Hook benefitted from a first round cop-out tie from me, though with a cast that includes Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, & Julia Roberts, all directed by Steven Spielberg, one would think it shouldn’t have to rely on such benevolence. I’ve told this story before, but I fondly recall seeing Hook in an old historic theater in downtown Huntington, WV. I was with a few of my fraternity brothers and we were the only people there, which began my lifelong affection for an essentially empty theater versus being in a crowded one. At any rate, that memorable viewing experience combined with my fondness for Williams has combined to elevate Hook a bit higher in my heart & mind than it probably deserves.

 

The Verdict:       Office Space. If I’m being honest I have to admit that Hook has its flaws. Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell was a huge mistake. The whole “Peter Pan grew up to be an uptight Type A neglectful workaholic that ignores his family” thing is a premise that probably sounded really cool in the early 90’s, but in retrospect a straight retelling of the Peter Pan story might have been a better choice. Spielberg is indisputably brilliant, but he could have benefitted from the kind of CGI and technological movie magic that probably wasn’t available in the 90’s. Office Space is more proof that when a story really works, the script is well written, and the jokes are funny a big budget and top shelf actors aren’t necessary. It further illustrates the difference between a movie that’ll make a splash on the big screen for a few weeks but quickly evaporate into the pop culture ether versus something that is built to last and make a long term impact.

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The Wedding Singer

Release:    2/13/98

Starring:     Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore

Directed By:        Frank Coraci (The Waterboy, Blended)

 

vs.

 

Edward Scissorhands

 

Quotes

It’s not heaven he’s from! It’s straight from the stinking flames of hell! The power of Satan is in him; I can feel it. Can’t you? Have you poor sheep strayed so far from the path? He has been sent first to tempt you. But it’s not too late. You must push him from you, expel him! Trample down the perversion of nature!

 

Sweetheart, you can’t buy the necessities of life with cookies.

 

The years spent in isolation have not equipped him with the tools necessary to judge right from wrong. He’s had no context. He’s been completely without guidance.

 

You see, before he came down here, it never snowed. And afterwards, it did. If he weren’t up there now, I don’t think it would be snowing. Sometimes you can still catch me dancing in it.

 

Odds & Ends

The idea for the movie was inspired by a drawing Tim Burton had done when he was a teenager,The drawing depicted a thin, solemn man with long, sharp blades for fingers. Burton stated that he was often alone and had trouble retaining friendships. “I get the feeling people just got this urge to want to leave me alone for some reason, I don’t know exactly why.”

 

Winona Ryder dropped out of The Godfather: Part III to appear in this film. Reportedly, it was Johnny Depp who actually convinced her to do so.

 

Vincent Price’s role was intended to be larger, but the veteran actor was very ill with emphysema and Parkinson’s disease, so his scenes were cut to a minimum.

 

The houses used in the film were a real community in Florida, completely unchanged, except for their garish exterior paint.

 

Some of the topiary that Edward makes in the movie can be seen permanently at the New York City restaurant Tavern On the Green.

 

Viewers are left to decide whether they think Kim is telling a fairy tale to her granddaughter or relating a story about something that really happened to her.

 

Burton and screenwriter Caroline Thompson cite various monster stories like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, King Kong, and Creature from the Black Lagoon as an influential to the film.

 

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When did I become old enough that the 1980’s could be deemed proper fodder for nostalgia?? Apparently the answer to that question is 1998. Sandler followed-up his successful hits Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore with a story about Robbie Hart, an aspiring musician who lives with his sister & her family in New Jersey. Robbie’s dreams of becoming a rock star seem to have faded as he has settled into an apathetic existence as the leader of a cover band that performs at weddings, birthday parties, & bar mitzvahs. His girlfriend has grown weary of this lack of vision & ambition and ditches him at the altar on their wedding day. Robbie has a hilarious yet pitiful breakdown, but the clouds begin to lift when he meets Julia, a waitress at the catering hall where he often performs. If rom-coms were sports teams Sandler & Barrymore would be great backups coming off the bench behind starters Tom Hanks & Meg Ryan. They’ve done three movies together and this first collaboration is the best. It was the 24th highest grossing film of 1998 (behind Shakespeare in Love but ahead of Halloween: H2O) and holds a 68% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The L.A. Times glowingly called it “a sparkling romantic comedy…the kind that glides by so gracefully & unpretentiously that it’s only upon reflection that you realize how much skill, caring, and good judgment had to have gone into its making”, while Ebert opined that “one of the sad byproducts of the dumbing-down of America is that we’re now forced to witness the goofy plots of the 1930s played sincerely, as if they were really deep”. I’m not really sure exactly what that means, but it makes me wonder what Roger Ebert…who died in 2013…would think of some of the absolute crapfests that besmirch theaters these days, because The Wedding Singer is Citizen Kane in comparison to many of them. Edward Scissorhands got past Mallrats in Round 1 because I just don’t understand what the big deal is about Kevin Smith. It’s hard to categorize Edward Scissorhands, but I think that’s part of its charm. It appeals to different people for various reasons, and all of those perspectives are valid. The film is visually stunning, with the fascinating contrast between Edward’s gothic existence and the colorful 50’s vibe of the human neighborhood he is brought to, and as a person with a disability who has oftentimes found it challenging to fit into “normal” society I appreciate that theme. Burton squashed the idea of a sequel a few years ago, and one can only hope he doesn’t ever let anyone do a stupid remake.

 

The Verdict:       The Wedding Singer. This one comes down to repeat viewings for me, and I can’t remember the last time I watched Edward Scissorhands. Burton is a weird dude who’s made some strange movies. Some of them aren’t bad, but personally I have to be in the right kind of mood to enjoy his stuff. The Wedding Singer has wider appeal, and especially speaks to an 80’s kid like myself.

 

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Die Hard: With A Vengeance

Release:    5/19/95

Starring:     Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Irons

Directed By:        John McTiernan (Predator, The Hunt for Red October. The Last Action Hero)

 

vs.

 

Goodfellas

Release:    9/19/90

Starring:     Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci

Directed By:        Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The Last Temptation of Christ)

 

vs.

 

Twister

 

Quotes

When you told me you used to chase tornados I always thought it was a metaphor!

 

It’s the Fujita Scale. It measures the intensity of a tornado by how much it eats.

 

He’s a nightcrawler. We all started out working in the same lab, but Jonas went out and got some corporate sponsors. He’s in it for the money not the science. He has a lot of high tech gadgets, but he doesn’t have any instinct.

 

Odds & Ends

Filming in Oklahoma was briefly delayed due to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Much of the crew went to the site to help with recovery efforts.

 

A recording of a camel’s moan was slowed down and used as the sound of the tornado.

 

The characters are alarmed when TV screens go blank, showing only static, before the tornado hits. In the days before digital TV, it was discovered that tornadoes generate a signal that will override and blank channel 2 on TV sets. Digital TVs do not react that way.

 

In the town of Wakita, the building the actors used to get ready for filming was turned into a museum for the movie where they have “Dorothy” on display as well as many other items from the movie.

 

As one of the characters looks at the screen of their weather computer, he screams “That’s no moon, it’s a space station!” That’s Obi-Wan Kenobi’s line when he, Luke, Han, and Chewbacca first discover the Death Star.

 

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Bruce Willis has now made five Die Hard films, with one final swan song allegedly on the way (reportedly a prequel). I don’t think it’s possible to surpass the first one, but Vengeance gives it a heck of a try. Seven years after the dramatic Christmas party at Nakatomi Plaza and five years after another memorable yuletide at an airport Detective John McClane is again estranged from his wife, suspended from the NYPD, and apparently an alcoholic. But then a terrorist threatens to blow up a school and specifically requests McClane’s involvement in the case, which involves a cat & mouse game of solving riddles throughout The Big Apple. McClane’s impromptu partner this time is a Harlem store owner named Zeus, who inadvertently gets pulled into the action. The criminal turns out to be the brother of the bad guy from the first film, and there is a similar twist as far as what his motives are. Jackson was a welcome addition to the franchise and breathes a lot of life into the story. Vengeance was the tenth highest grossing film of 1995 but holds an unimpressive 52% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety said that it “degenerates into an improbable & confusing series of chases and an overly involved heist that takes far too long to set up”, Rolling Stone called it “a tense, terrifically funny action dazzler”, Ebert referred to it as “a wind-up action toy…cleverly made and delivered with high energy”, and Entertainment Weekly thought it was “a more racially charged Lethal Weapon”, opining that the mad bomber “toys with McClane like a villain on the old Batman TV series”. Twister easily beat Very Bad Things in Round 1 but now faces a stiffer challenge. Time Magazine harshly observed that “you know a movie is in trouble when a cow provides its only moment of authentic human interest”. Variety said that the movie “conveys the overwhelming impression of a mechanical entertainment, a very high concept in which the characters and their problems seem like utterly arbitrary creations”. The NY Times thought that “science aside… it works as escapism even if you do know enough to come in out of the rain”. Goodfellas is a mob movie far different from anything we saw in The Godfather films. Based on the story of real life mobster Henry Hill, Goodfellas is a grittier and less cinematic story than The Godfather, but I suspect that it’s a more accurate portrayal of mob life. The cast is first rate, and the movie was nominated for a half dozen Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. However, the only Oscar it took home was Best Supporting Actor for Pesci. Goodfellas was the 26th highest grossing film of 1990, behind Problem Child, Days of Thunder, and the much maligned Godfather Part III, but ahead of Rocky V, Predator 2, and Ernest Goes to Jail. It has a near perfect Rotten Tomatoes score of 96%. The NY Daily News said that “Scorsese succeeds in smashing all the foolishly romantic myths about the mob with this shocking, vigorously honest portrait”, Rolling Stone observed that it “bristles with violent passion, howitzer wit, and virtuoso style”, and Variety dissented from the majority by calling it “colorful but dramatically unsatisfying”. Our buddy Ebert didn’t hold back when he said that “no finer film has ever been made about organized crime…not even The Godfather”, which is where I have to draw the line. I have no doubt that Goodfellas is more authentic, but Variety hit the nail on the head by calling it dramatically unsatisfying. The old saying is that truth is stranger than fiction…but is it more entertaining?? I don’t think so.

 

The Verdict:       Die Hard: With a Vengeance. With all due respect, I must defend The Godfather. It may be more realistic, but Goodfellas is NOT a better movie…not in any universe I’d ever want to inhabit. That’s just crazy talk. I’m not really into violence, and Goodfellas is a much more vicious film than The Godfather, while none of its characters are as well written or performed with the exception of Pesci’s Tommy DeVito. Twister is a decent disaster flick, but gets lost in the shuffle amongst much better movies of that genre. Vengeance isn’t as good as the original Die Hard, but it’s certainly better than any of the other sequels, and it’s one of my favorite Samuel L. Jackson performances.