100 Favorite Movies…..66-70

70 The Glen Miller Story

I’m a big fan of Jimmy Stewart and I love big band & jazz music, so this movie provides an irresistible combo. Stewart is quite the Miller doppelganger, which I assume is a prime reason he was cast in the film. June Allyson provides perky support as Miller’s wife, and a pre-MASH Harry Morgan plays Miller’s best buddy. The story follows Glen Miller from his struggling musician days through his rise to fame to his untimely demise in a presumed plane crash during World War II. I decided to watch this movie years ago simply because I had become a fan of Stewart and wanted to see as many of his films as possible. But the movie made me a Glenn Miller fan and I continue to enjoy his music immensely.

 

69 The Shrek Trilogy

I have to admit…I didn’t see any Shrek films until all three were already out and available on video, so I’m fairly new to the Shrek universe. I didn’t bother with them at first because I assumed they were kiddie films. However, I decided to watch one on television a few years back and have since seen all three. I was both right and wrong in my original assessment. They are undoubtedly geared toward an demographic far younger than I, but on the other hand sometimes it’s okay to temporarily feel like a kid again. For anyone unfamiliar (which I assume would only be folks who, like me, are both single and childless because anyone with children is surely familiar with Shrek), this animated trilogy follows the adventures of a surly but loveable ogre, his talking donkey sidekick, and the ogre’s lady love. There are a host of other characters. Lending their considerable voice talents to the three films are an all star team of folks such as Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Antonio Banderas, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Justin Timberlake, John Cleese, Rupert Everett, and many more. Most of the visual humor and jokes in the series parody well known fairy tales, which is a huge part of the charm for me…I love parodies and who doesn’t appreciate childhood fairy tales. The animation is computer generated, which far exceeds the animation most of us grew up with. These movies need to be viewed in high definition to really get the full effect.

 

68 The Greatest Show On Earth

Once again my favorite actor Jimmy Stewart is paired with something cool. This time it’s the circus. I think this is one of Stewart’s best performances. It is certainly low key and subtle, as he spends the entire film in clown makeup. The bigger draw for most people, I suppose, would be Charlton Heston in one of his finest performances as well. Heston kind of became a sad parody of himself in the latter part of his career, but this is one of his earlier movies and he shows why he was once one of the top box office attractions in the world. Directed by famed auteur Cecil B. Demille (I’m ready for my close-up…indeed), the story follows the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus as it travels from town to town. We meet several of the performers and become involved in their lives behind the big top, so to speak. That behind the scenes view reveals a lot of romance, intrigue, drama, and tragedy. Basically it’s a soap opera set at the circus. Demille is known for his lavish, over-the-top, extravagant productions, and he doesn’t disappoint with The Greatest Show On Earth. Like so many beloved memories of yesteryear, the circus has almost slipped into being a remnant from a bygone era. Sure they are still around, but they are no longer an event. Even when I was a kid not that long ago it was a big deal when the circus came to town. Nowadays kids are into their video games and computers and iPods and couldn’t possibly care less about the circus. But watch this movie and you will be reminded of just how extraordinary it used to be.

 

67 Ocean’s 13

In 2001 George Clooney, Matt Damon, and Brad Pitt teamed up to remake the 1960 Rat Pack romp Ocean’s 11, about robbing a Vegas casino. The remake was a smashing success and unlike the original spawned sequels. The first movie will be dealt with later in this list. The second movie, Ocean’s 12, was poorly written and quite forgettable. The third movie was Ocean’s 13, and it’s a nice rebound from its disappointing predecessor. This time the gang returns to Las Vegas and they don’t actually rob a casino as much as they…turn the odds in their favor through uniquely nefarious means. The bad guy is played by Al Pacino, which automatically makes this a must see. As with the other Ocean’s films, don’t try to interject logic or make sense out of the proceedings. This is pure popcorn cinema, escapism at its best.

 

66 The Frat Pack Three Pak (Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin, & Wedding Crashers)

Anyone who grew up in the 80’s is familiar with The Brat Pack (Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Judd Nelson, Andrew McCarthy, Rob Lowe, and a few others). And while imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I would not necessarily call the modern Frat Pack imitators. The only similarity is the name homage, which was itself a takeoff on the 1960’s Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra and his pallies. The Frat Pack is generally thought to be comprised of Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Owen and Luke Wilson, Steve Carell, Jack Black, Paul Rudd, and Seth Rogen. Some combination of those actors has starred in a host of films together with a wide array of results. Zoolander and Starsky & Hutch…not so good. Old School and Blades of Glory…much better. But for me three Frat Pack films stand head and shoulders above the crowd and have stood up to numerous repeated viewings. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy stars Ferrell with Carell and Rudd in very amusing supporting roles. Vaughn, Stiller, Black, Rogen and Luke Wilson all have brief cameos. Ferrell plays an over-the-top misogynistic 70’s news anchor whose world is turned upside down when he’s forced to share the anchor desk with a woman. Anchorman is among the most quotable movies of the past two decades and is just pointless yet harmless fun. The 40 Year Old Virgin stars Carell as the titular character, with Rogen and Rudd in vital supporting roles that really make this film work. It’s hilarious but sweet, with more quotable dialogue and a few really memorable scenes. I really like Rudd in this film. Wedding Crashers, starring Vaughn and Owen Wilson, is a movie I really like but probably not as much as some people. I don’t think it’s really any better than any other Frat Pack film, which doesn’t mean anything negative it just means my praise seems to not rise to outlandish and undeserved peaks of hyperbole. Will Ferrell makes possibly one of the best cameos of all time, and to say that Rachel McAdams (who I someday intend to make my bride) is quite fetching may be one of the biggest understatements I could conceive. Plus there’s Christopher Walken and that’s just the cherry on top.

 

 

 

100 Favorite Movies…96-100

Before we begin, I feel the need to clarify my thoughts on something. A list like this isn’t easy to assemble. I don’t mean that it is difficult in the grand scheme of life. Certainly there are more important issues that we deal with on a daily basis, and there are deeper things on which we can spend our time pondering. But quite frankly I find people who are unable to relax and have fun just a tad bit irritating. How one spends “down time” is an individual choice, and in 21st century America we have an abundance of options. I am fully aware that some folks are movie buffs and some find such entertainment mundane and beneath the pedestal upon which they have placed themselves. The latter group will find this list uninteresting. So be it. But the armchair critics and couch potatoes among you will hopefully find my choices worth the read, and will also appreciate the delicate complexity involved. So without further adieu…..the first five choices on the list:

 

 

 

100 Caddyshack
AFI rated the Bill Murray/Chevy Chase classic ode to golf and class warfare at #71 on their 100 Greatest Comedies list. I suppose a lot of folks would have it rated higher on their list and mine. Sometimes I think enjoyment of a movie is all about timing. Where one first sees the film and under what circumstances, how many times they’ve seen it, what year it came out in relation to the viewer’s age, and other correlations. I was only 8 when Caddyshack was in theaters, and it was Rated R. But many people have come to adore it through the magic of television and video, and there are older films that I find immensely pleasurable, so the timing issue doesn’t fully explain why I rate it dozens of spots lower than the majority likely would. I also believe that everyone’s sense of humor is different and that we “get” certain things while others just go completely over our head. Bill Murray is someone whose humor just never really bowled me over, and his legendary performance in Caddyshack made his career. Actually, I would go so far as to say it IS his career. Anyway, I do enjoy the movie which is why it’s on the list. I just may not enjoy it as much as you do. And the sequel that was made eight years later which is disparaged by most, especially fans of the original…..well, I don’t think it’s all that bad, probably because I don’t have the first one on such a high pedestal.

 

99 E.T. the Extra Terrestrial
It wasn’t Spielberg’s first venture into the world of sci-fi (remember Close Encounters of the Third Kind??), but it is his most beloved. This is a perfect example of circumstances shaping one’s opinion. I’m not positive that E.T. was the first movie I ever saw in a theater, but I distinctly remember seeing it in a theater with my mother and sister, and I know it’s one of only three movies (we’ll get to the other two much later in this process) that have ever brought tears to my eyes.

 

98 Fast Times At Ridgemont High
If one needed to procure items for a 1980’s time capsule a copy of Fast Times would be a must. It is the quintessential high school flick and launched the careers of Sean Penn, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judge Reinhold, Phoebe Cates, Forest Whitaker, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards, and Eric Stoltz. There are 3 Academy Award winners in that list ladies and gentlemen. That’s impressive. I’m not a Sean Penn fan by any means, but with Spicoli he created one of the most original and enduringly funny characters in American cinema. And if Phoebe Cates never does another thing in her life (and let’s be honest…..her career after Fast Times hasn’t exactly been noteworthy), she will be immortal to generations of randy teenage boys who’ll never forget her coming out of that pool.

 

97 Risky Business
Once upon a time Tom Cruise was the living breathing definition of cool, and this is where it all began. Sure, he’d been in some other quasi-memorable flicks (Taps, Losin’ It, The Outsiders, Endless Love), but the roles were all pretty insignificant. With Risky Business, a tale about a high school boy-next-door type turning his house into a brothel while his parents are away on vacation, Cruise burst onto the scene and over 25 years later is still around. One key element to a good movie can be a memorable scene or two, and all anyone has to say to evoke a smile when it comes to Risky Business is “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” or “El Train”. That kind of positive notoriety is the envy of about 99% of all entertainment produced these days.

 

96 School of Rock
I typically shy away from holding newer movies in any kind of high esteem. I like to see if it has staying power, if it’ll make me laugh or give me as much pleasure the tenth time I’ve seen it as it did the first time I watched. There are exceptions to the rule though. I like Jack Black. He’s funny and creative. Put him in a role where there’s good music involved (and good music is the central backdrop of School of Rock) and the combination is irresistible.