2022 Sammy Awards – Part 1

Greetings Manoverse, and welcome to the 2022 Sammy Awards!! It has been a tradition here since 2010 for us to welcome a new year by saying a fond farewell to the old year. We look back at the key moments, people, & topics that made the past 12 months what they were. We celebrate the highlights & allow ourselves to lament the lowlights. A wise teacher once said “Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them”, and we believe it is good to remember what happened and give those stories kudos or derision…whichever is appropriate. So sit back, grab some popcorn & your beverage of choice, and enjoy the world’s most irreverent fake awards show!! 

To host the festivities it is our pleasure to welcome one of our most underrated comedians. He has received multiple Grammy nominations, is known for working clean, and offers low key, relatable observations on topics with which we are all familiar. Please welcome to the stage Jim Gaffigan!!

After some hilarious opening comments from our host it is time to hand out some hardware!! To do the honors we are excited to welcome a beloved actor from the 1970s. He starred in one of the few romantic dramas about a blind ice skater, the 1978 classic Ice Castles, as well as Ode to Billy Joe, in which he hurls himself off a bridge after having sex with Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane from The Dukes of Hazzard. Give a rousing ovation for the very much alive (who knew??) Robby Benson!! And the nominees are:

Favorite TV Show

The World According to Jeff Goldblum 

Quirky actor Goldblum returned to Disney+ with fresh episodes examining topics like dogs, fireworks, & motorcycles. He doesn’t necessarily break new ground on these subjects, but does approach them from a distinct perspective. 

General Hospital

Yes, I still watch “my stories” (as my grandmothers used to call them). However, not only are there only four soap operas remaining, just one feels worthy of recognition. I’ve been a fan of GH since the early 80s, and still look forward to watching it whenever time permits (which is often enough since I have no life {I’m “producing” a fake awards show for God’s sake}). 

Cobra Kai 

The 4th season was released on NY’s Eve 2021, and in a pleasant surprise Season 5 came along just months later in September 2022. It’s still a compelling story for those old enough to have enjoyed the Karate Kid films back in the day, and I suppose it’s a good enough show to have attracted younger fans not as familiar with the movies. That being said, it feels like the upcoming season (which may not arrive for another year) should be the end unless they do some sort of time jump. It’s more difficult to get away with having 20-somethings portray high school students than it used to be. 

The Santa Clauses

This was a nice little holiday treat. Tim Allen returned for a six episode series on Disney+ in which Santa Claus (fka Scott Calvin) decides to retire, chooses a successor, and things go awry. Y’all should check it out while you’re still in the holiday spirit.

WWE Raw/NXT/Smackdown 

Am I as big of a wrestling fan as I used to be?? No. I ponder the question of whether the product just isn’t as captivating as it was in the heyday of Hulk Hogan & Ric Flair or The Rock & “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, or if perhaps I’m just not the same person I was in my youth. Either way, I still watch the shows, but don’t find them as interesting as I did once upon a time. 

and the Sammy goes to…..

General Hospital. For the second year in a row consistency wins. I still haven’t totally bought into the whole streaming thing, and I’m not sure I ever will. I like having new episodes to look forward to. I don’t really enjoy binging everything in a few days then having to wait months for my next fix. GH continues to be well written with a great cast. It may not be your cup o’ tea and that’s okay, but having grown up with the show the fine folks in Port Charles, NY almost seem like family. Dysfunctional?? Sure, but that’s fine. 

To present our next award we are happy to have two characters that underwent a bit of a makeover in 2022. In an effort to be inclusive or whatever…some kind of PC bullsquat…Green M&M was stripped of her lip gloss, high heeled boots, & long eyelashes, and instead given sneakers & a plain face, apparently to appease female gym teachers & golfers on the LPGA Tour. Not to be outdone, Disney decided to toss Minnie Mouse’s iconic red polka dot dress and pander to Hillary Clinton voters by putting Minnie in an unflattering black & blue pantsuit. We don’t play those kind of silly games here at The Sammys. We love women & embrace femininity, so we are happy to welcome to the stage OG Green M&M and Minnie Mouse!! And the nominees are:

Favorite App

Words with Friends 

Full disclosure…I became bored by Words in the latter half of 2022. I’m pretty sure that the plethora of challenges I received daily were from bots rather than real people, and I decided to step away for awhile. I’ll probably return soon enough. 

Instagram 

In less than three years I have posted over 12k memes on Insta. It’s usually the first thing I do when I wake up. Weird?? Kind of sad?? Yes & yes, but atleast I’m honest.

Amazon Music 

I’d rather listen to music than watch television most of the time. I am very moody when it comes to the tunes I enjoy. What I’m into might change on a daily basis. However, I’ve never been unable to find what I’m looking for on Amazon Music. It’s $10/month well spent.

Pic Stitch 

I take a lot of photos whenever I attend a social event. I might take a hundred pics but end up with 35 good ones by the time I filter out blurry or repetitive shots. This app allows me to be even more efficient by stitching together two or more photos so that out of the original 100 I end up posting maybe 15 or 20 to social media. 

TextArt

I’ve segued into creating my own memes!! Sometimes I see a quote I like or an existing meme that just seems too busy, so I take the basic concept & create a better version the way I want it. Perhaps I missed my calling as a graphic designer. 

Air Brush 

I see memes or picture quotes all the time that just need something unnecessary erased out of them. It’s not always as tight & precise as I’d prefer, but it is usually adequate for my purposes. 

Infinity 8 Ball

I went thru my Spades phase, but now I’ve moved on to billiards. Thus far I’ve played over 1400 games and have fallen just below a 60% win rate. 

and the Sammy goes to…..

Amazon Music. After being nominated a couple of times in the past Amazon Music finally earns the prize. You may use Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, iHeart Radio, or any of the plethora of music apps available, and that’s cool. I’m sure they’re all great. For me Amazon has been a reliable & functional tool that’s become an indispensable part of daily life.

To present our next two awards it is a pleasure to welcome a former NFL punter and current ESPN & WWE commentator whose charisma & liveliness infuses any program he’s part of with more of an energy boost than you’ll get from the entire Starbucks menu combined. Get up on your feet for the inimitable Pat McAfee!! And the nominees are:

The Thrill of Victory Award

Georgia’s National Title

In January the Georgia Bulldogs destroyed Alabama to claim their third National Championship. They’ll have an opportunity to add to the trophy case soon. 

The Super Rams

On February 13, 2022 the Los Angeles Rams beat the Cincinnati Bengals to win their second Lombardi Trophy.

Golden St. Is Golden Again  

After a couple of lean years the Warriors returned to the top of the mountain in 2022, defeating the Boston Celtics in six games to win their 7th NBA title and the fourth since 2015.

LIV Golf

Don’t look now golf fans, but the PGA Tour has some competition. It is in its infancy & needs better television deals, but stalwarts like Phil Mickelson, Sergio Garcia, & Dustin Johnson joined up, seduced by huge money & shorter tournaments with no cuts.

Kansas Wins The Madness 

It was a Battle of Bluebloods when the Kansas Jayhawks defeated the North Carolina Tar Heels to win their fourth National Championship. 

Novak Djokovic

Still one of the top tennis players in the world, Djokovic won at Wimbledon for the 4th consecutive year.

and the Sammy goes to…..

Los Angeles Rams. They couldn’t follow up this season, but on that February night in their home stadium the Rams rose to the occasion late in the 4th quarter. It was nice to see QB Matthew Stafford achieve success after a dismal decade+ in Detroit.

He’s just so damn entertaining that we asked Pat McAfee to stick around & hand out the next prize as well. It looks like he’s made himself comfortable. And the nominees are:

The Agony of Defeat Award

Big Ben’s Retirement

After 18 years as the quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers Ben Roethlisberger was gently pushed into retirement. His arm strength had noticeably diminished & his unique escapability had virtually disappeared with no help from a porous offensive line, but the disappointment of his last couple of seasons doesn’t detract from a memorable Hall of Fame career. 

Antonio Brown 

We’ve known for awhile that the former Steelers wide receiver is mentally unstable. After an acrimonious departure from Pittsburgh a few years ago Brown bounced around a bit before seeming to find a soft landing spot in Tampa. He even won a Super Bowl ring with the Buccaneers. However, that relationship crashed & burned late in the 2021 season, with our last image that of Brown taking off his jersey & leaving in the midst of a game. Since then he has engaged in sophomoric online shenanigans implying he’s been gettin’ busy with Tom Brady’s now ex-wife and been accused of domestic violence as well as improper conduct toward a woman in Dubai. 

The Olympics 

Another year, another Olympic Games no one cared about. This time it was in Beijing, China. I would literally rather sit in a dark room staring into space than watch the Winter Olympics in Communist China with no spectators in the stands because of a disease they created. Actually I probably did some of that while this was going on.

MLB Lockout 

The start of the baseball season was delayed by a week thanks to yet another disagreement between owners & players. Two notable outcomes: universal DH & an expanded playoff format. Designated hitters became a thing for National League teams in 2022, which I hate. I always liked that there were differences between the American League &  National League. Both leagues also added an extra wildcard team to the playoff bracket, which I didn’t mind.

Coach K’s Swan Song 

In 4+ decades as the head basketball coach for the Duke Blue Devils Mike Krzyzewski won more than 1000 games, 15 ACC tournament titles, and 5 National Championships. His teams made the NCAA Tournament nearly every year & played in 13 Final Fours. Coach K also won three Olympic gold medals. He’d announced before the 2021-22 season that it would be his last, and the Blue Devils won 32 games. Unfortunately they lost Coach K.’s home finale to North Carolina, lost the ACC title game to Virginia Tech, and fell once again in the Final Four to the Tar Heels. I’m a sucker for storybook endings and was pulling for him to finish on top.

Phil Mickelson 

All the sudden my man Phil has become the black sheep of golf. It started with his controversial defection to LIV Golf last spring, accompanied by disparaging comments about PGA leadership. Mickelson skipped The Masters & the PGA Championship. At age 52 & clearly past his prime I can’t be too hard on the guy for being seduced by the huge money & reduced schedule offered by LIV, but it may have cost him the legacy he’d built during a fantastic three decade+ career. 

Brady’s Gone!! Nevermind, He’s Back 😖

Y’all know I despise Tom Brady. He’s like an evil serial killer in a slasher movie that won’t freakin’ die!! I thought our long nightmare was finally over when Brady announced his retirement back in February. Remember the Bible story about Jesus battling Satan in the desert for 40 days?? Imagine if Satan had won. That’s what it felt like when Brady ended his retirement after 40 days. Yes…he did that, and you can’t convince me it wasn’t on purpose. His decision proved costly, as he ended up divorced, but on the bright side (atleast for him) he’s led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the playoffs, and if the dude wins yet another damn Super Bowl I might just have to look into this soccer thing. 

Washington Commanders 

After years of pressure from the PC Police the Redskins nickname was finally scrapped a few years ago. After that they were awkwardly known as the Washington Football Team for a couple of seasons because apparently it’s harder to name a sports franchise than anyone realized, even though this change was on the cusp of happening for a long time. At any rate, the powers-that-be narrowed the field down to a few choices, including Armada, Brigade, and Defenders. Commanders is better than any of those, although I preferred Red Wolves.

Flores’ Lawsuit 

Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a lawsuit against the NFL in February alleging racial discrimination in hiring practices & that Dolphins’ ownership had asked him to tank games to get higher draft picks. To my knowledge the suit has not been resolved, but Flores landed with the Steelers as a defensive assistant (they should elevate him to defensive coordinator).

LIV Golf

Don’t look now golf fans, but the PGA Tour has some competition. The problem?? It is funded by the rulers of Saudi Arabia, a country well known for human rights violations & other nefarious activities, in a transparent PR attempt to change the narrative. Think of Michael Corleone trying to make The Family legitimate by giving a bunch of money to The Vatican in The Godfather Part III. Same kind of thing, only without murder & mayhem (we hope). 

Novak Djokovic

While it is true that Djokovic won Wimbledon for the fourth straight year, he was unfortunately prohibited from competing in the Australian Open & U.S. Open due to draconian & misguided Covid restrictions. He stood strong in his steadfast refusal to get “vaccinated”, a decision that cost him some money but perhaps saved his life.

and the Sammy goes to…..

LIV Golf.  Is it a real threat to the PGA Tour?? I don’t think so. I am reminded of the original USFL, which briefly seemed like a solid alternative to the NFL. They too made a big splash by signing Heisman Trophy winners Hershel Walker, Doug Flutie, and Mike Rozier, as well as QBs Jim Kelly & Steve Young. But the USFL made some missteps & only lasted a few seasons. LIV has wooed enough PGA stalwarts to grab our attention, and there’s certainly enough cash behind the effort. However, I’ll be surprised if the whole thing is anything more than a memory five years from now.

To present our next award we are pleased to welcome one of the most underrated actors of his generation. He has appeared in blockbuster films like Ghostbusters, Crocodile Dundee, and Turner & Hooch, and is a beloved holiday icon who played a pivotal part in saving hundreds of lives on Christmas Eve in Die Hard. He then went on to star in one of the most cherished sitcoms of the 1990’s, Family Matters, a show that might’ve only lasted a month instead of airing for nine breathtakingly hilarious seasons if not for his star power & skills as an actor. It is indeed an honor to welcome Reginald VelJohnson to present a very special tribute.

Duffer-Herrell Lifetime Achievement Award 

Bruce Willis 

Moonlighting.

The Christmas classic Die Hard (and it’s plethora of sequels). 

Look Who’s Talking

Striking Distance.

Armageddon.

The Whole Nine Yards.

Those episodes of Friends when he ended up dating Rachel.

That album he put out in the late 80s.

Bruce Willis has done a little bit of everything in his amazing career spanning more than four decades. Sadly that journey seems to be over, as it was announced back in March that he is retiring due to aphasia, which is an inability to comprehend or formulate language because of damage to specific brain regions. Willis is 67 years old, which in the 21st century means we thought we had many more years to enjoy new performances. I had even read rumors of one final Die Hard, which would’ve been great, especially if it was a good movie on the same level as the first three. Sadly that won’t be happening. Of course in the grand scheme of things that’s not really important. Bruce Willis is still alive, and that’s what matters to his loved ones. For the rest of us we’ll always have his body of work. Is he the greatest actor that ever graced the big screen?? No, but who cares?? Years from now our grandchildren will be telling their grandchildren about a decent actor who made a memorable impression and entertained millions. Each December, along with George Bailey, Ebenezer Scrooge, Ralphie Parker, and The Whos down in Whoville, Detective John McClane will continue to be a key player in Christmas celebrations everywhere. That’s a damn fine legacy, and for that The Sammys are proud to recognize the contributions of Bruce Willis to popular culture. 

This seems like a good place to pause. Please stay tuned for Part 2 of the 2022 Sammy Awards. 

90’s Film Frenzy: Dope Round 3

As we begin Round 3 of 90’s Film Frenzy the field has been whittled down from 100 to 32 combatants. The bad news is that now choosing a winner becomes alot more difficult. The good news is that going forward my intention is to be much less verbose. It has always been my aim to keep posts here at The Manofesto fairly brief & readable, but I was uncomfortable with the idea of breaking down this competition into anything other than rounds & divisions lest the whole idea become a jumbled mess. Unfortunately that has meant some pretty lengthy entries thus far. However, at this point I believe you have all the essential information about each movie. You know release dates, the main cast, & director(s). I’ve given you quotes and trivia. We’ve talked about box office performance, awards, & critics’ reviews. From here on out it is a matter of separating the contenders from the pretenders and seeing which film will stand out from an impressive crowd.

 

 

 

 

 

Titanic                                             vs.                                 Father of the Bride Part II

After receiving a first round bye Titanic overcame stiff Round 2 competition and defeated Saving Private Ryan. I’m a sucker for biopics and anything historical (except for war movies…obviously), and since the 1912 Titanic disaster had been of interest to me from a young age I was all about this movie back in ’97. DiCaprio & Winslet are perfect as the two leads, but let’s talk about the supporting cast. Kathy Bates as “Unsinkable” Molly Brown. Gloria Stuart as “Old” Rose, a performance for which Stuart became the second oldest person to receive an Oscar nomination (though she lost to Kim Basinger for L.A. Confidential). Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews, the shipbuilder who is devastated by the fatal flaw he never fathomed. Bill Paxton as a greedy treasure hunter digging around the remains of the ship whose perspective is changed by Rose’s emotional recounting of the doomed voyage. The framing device of an expedition exploring the sunken ship with the aid of an immersible is a nice touch mirroring real life explorations of the wreckage. Celine Dion’s song My Heart Will Go On is only heard during the closing credits but became part of the total package of the film’s success and was a #1 hit all across the world. Father of the Bride II has beaten two people…Bob & Mary, to get to this point. It got past What About Bob? In Round 1, and upset There’s Something About Mary in the second round. I am well aware that there is no shortage of people who might consider those two films superior to FotB2, especially Mary. I’m just not much for gross out humor, and while some might think a guy getting his junk caught in a zipper hilarious I just find that scene uncomfortable to watch. At any rate, FotB2 takes the premise of its predecessor in a…different but fun direction. There are a couple of really funny scenes…one where George Banks takes a powerful sleeping pill just as his daughter is going into labor, and another when he’s feeling old and colors his hair, freaking out his wife in the process. I know a lot of folks take issue with the way that Martin Short’s eccentric wedding coordinator from the first film is shoehorned into the sequel, but let’s face it…Franck is responsible for atleast half of the laughs in both movies, and it works. Short & Martin are a great duo. Like its predecessor FotB2 isn’t really laugh-out-loud funny as much as it is heartwarming & cozy. It isn’t particularly quotable and critics really disliked it, but for me it’s one of those reliable, tried & true, go-to movies when there’s nothing better to do than chill out with a good flick.

 

The Verdict:       Titanic. As much as I love Father of the Bride II it just doesn’t stand up to the competition. Eleven Academy Awards and over a decade as the highest grossing film of all time is hard to ignore.

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My Cousin Vinny                                    vs.                                 Independence Day

Independence Day defeated Silence of the Lambs and Swingers in a second round triple threat match after receiving a first round bye. While Will Smith is the big star I am personally fonder of Jeff Goldblum’s performance as a tech expert, Judd Hirsh’s turn as Goldblum’s father, & Randy Quaid as a crazy, alcoholic former fighter pilot. It is those kinds of supporting performances that can take a movie to the next level. Obviously, as a prototypical summer blockbuster there are lots of explosions, mayhem, action, & destruction, but one of the issues that I’ve always had with such movies is that I need more. I need good writing, interesting characters, and a credible premise that makes me care about what happens. Independence Day may not rise to the level of Jaws when it comes to those things, but meets the criteria well enough. Setting it against the backdrop of the holiday that celebrates American freedom while also blowing up The White House and making The President one of its central heroes provides what otherwise may have been just another disaster movie with a sense of patriotism, akin to how Halloween isn’t just another random slasher flick because of the holiday it represents, which is kind of brilliant. My Cousin Vinny beat Speed in the second round after receiving a first round bye, and now finds itself in a similar battle. Joe Pesci has done a little bit of everything in his career, and while he may be best known for tough guy gangster roles in films like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, & Casino, I actually prefer him in lighter fare like the Lethal Weapon series & Home Alone, and he is perfectly cast as fledgling attorney Vincent Gambini. Marisa Tomei famously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as gum smacking car expert Mona Lisa Vito, a rare award for comedy. One of the two guys on trial in the movie is portrayed by Ralph Macchio, who we obviously all remember from The Karate Kid, and the other is played by an actor named Mitchell Whitfield, who really hasn’t done much else worth noting in his career. Honestly those roles could’ve been played by any two random actors because they really aren’t that important after the initial premise is set up, but I understand casting a known face like Macchio, even if his talent is pretty much wasted. The hidden gem of My Cousin Vinny is Fred Gwynne as the judge. Gwynne is most famous for his role as family patriarch Herman in the 1960’s TV show The Munsters, so to see him without monster makeup and using a southern accent is rather amusing. His interactions & exasperation with Vinny are some of my favorite scenes in the movie.

 

The Verdict:       My Cousin Vinny. This is mainly about my preference for comedy over action, although the critics happen to agree with me. Independence Day made a ton of money back in the day, and it’s fine for what it is. However, in hindsight perhaps the powers-that-be tried to cram a bit too much into it at the expense of character development. Vinny is well-written & performed, and it doesn’t rely on potty humor, gross-out gags, sex, or profanity. It creates a farcical (yet quasi-plausible) situation and great characters and sharp dialogue to tell a funny story.

 

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Sleepless in Seattle                      vs.                                 Dumb & Dumber

 

Sleepless in Seattle is the second and most well-known of three Hanks/Ryan collaborations. After receiving a first round bye Sleepless defeated Galaxy Quest in Round 2, mostly because I think it is more accessible and appeals to a wider audience. Bill Pullman portrays the sickly fiancé of Ryan’s character Annie, and he seems more adept at comedic roles than in more serious fare. I kinda sorta identify with the character’s offbeat sense of humor, his perceived fragility, and the fact that I could totally see a hot babe ditching me for someone more charming & handsome. The kid in the movie was actually a recast after the first child actor just didn’t work out, and he plays the part well enough. Rosie O’Donnell, whom I have grown to detest since she became an outspoken political nutjob, was just a comedic actress in the early 90’s, a few years away from hosting her eponymous daytime talk show. Her role as the requisite best friend is necessary & amusing. Dumb & Dumber is probably the best of the Farrelly Brothers filmography, unless one chooses to throw in a memorable fourth season episode of the TV sitcom Seinfeld called The Virgin, which the brothers wrote. Jeff Daniels is another actor (like Bill Pullman) who should do more comedy because he’s actually quite funny. I know Jim Carrey gets all the attention, but this movie wouldn’t be nearly as good without Daniels. I first became enamored with actress Lauren Holly when she co-starred in an underrated CBS dramedy called Picket Fences in the early 90’s, but her spotlight grew brighter in the midst of that show’s run when Dumb & Dumber hit theaters. For some reason she never quite became a huge star though, and in recent years has once again been doing supporting roles on television. She essentially plays the straight man to both Carrey & Daniels in this movie, but she does it well and is certainly easy on the eyes. I must admit that, though I had every intention of heading to my local cineplex back in 2014 to check out the sequel Dumb & Dumber To I never made it and haven’t sought it out in the ensuing years, which is very instructive in analyzing my lukewarm affection for the original. A prequel was made back in 2003, but I didn’t bother and I don’t think many others did either.

 

The Verdict:       Sleepless in Seattle. I love Tom Hanks. I love Meg Ryan. I love Hanks & Ryan together. Both have moved on in their careers and tend to pursue more somber roles these days, but this is their wheelhouse and if they were to ever make another movie together…even though both are 60-ish now and not nearly as adorably appealing as they were 25 years ago…I’d be amongst the first in line at the theater. Dumb & Dumber is a movie I have watched a few times over the years, but it’s not an automatic tune in if I’m channel surfing…I have to be in just the right kind of silly mood.

 

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American Beauty                                    vs.                                 The Birdcage   

I realize that Kevin Spacey is persona non grata in Hollywood at the moment, his career having been mowed down by the #MeToo gestapo. It isn’t my intention to minimize anything odious that someone may have done or to put any unworthy person on a pedestal, but our purpose here is to chill out, have fun, & discuss movies, and Spacey is a brilliant actor who has done some great movies. He is the absolute best part of American Beauty, although…in retrospect…the subplot about him having a thing for a high school cheerleader feels unnecessary. I’ve never had the high paying job, beautiful wife, cute kid, or nice house that Lester Burnham has, but I am at an age now where I can understand the point at which a middle aged man looks at his life and just kind of snaps. Fortunately he loses it in a non-violent, mostly hilarious way, although the idea of emptiness & desperation is still properly conveyed. American Beauty is, at its core, an examination of the fraudulent façade of middle class suburbia, where so many folks who appear to be living the dream are actually drowning in despair. The ending of the movie is a bit of a downer, but when one ponders how the entire film could have been really depressing given the subject matter yet chooses a more lighthearted approach the conclusion becomes not only tolerable but feels almost necessary. The Birdcage is a blueprint that more entertainments should follow if they are hellbent & determined use their bully pulpit to dive into the sociopolitical abyss. It is a story told thru an obvious prism with a fairly clear perspective, but it never feels sanctimonious or divisive. There are some that feel like homosexuality is represented using the most extreme stereotypes, and others that have the same issue with the way conservatives are depicted. All of that is probably true, but the film is a farce, so I take no issue with how the characters are written or portrayed. Robin Williams is brilliant, and a cast that also includes Gene Hackman & Nathan Lane has more than their fair share of fun moments. There is a great supporting character named Agador Spartacus portrayed by the very talented Hank Azaria that almost steals the show. Azaria has done voices on The Simpsons for almost three decades and had small roles in movies like Along Came Polly & Dodgeball. He’s the kind of actor that’s never going to carry a film or become a huge star, but is often one of the most memorable parts of whatever he is in.

 

The Verdict:       The Birdcage. I make no secret of my affection for Robin Williams, so admittedly he has an advantage over a lot of other performers…even Kevin Spacey. This is a tough call, and I concede that American Beauty has a better pedigree, including five Academy Awards. However, there are a couple of things that bother me about it. First is the whole subplot about the creepy next door neighbor and his retired military officer father. Lester Burnham, his wife Carolyn, & their glum daughter Jane are interesting enough characters…we didn’t need weird neighbors thrown into the mix. Secondly, any film that’s been mostly fun throughout but concludes with the main character getting a bullet put into his head leaves an odd impression. I get it. The filmmakers were weaving a complex story with various profound insights about life, which is fine. I actually like that sort of thing. I just feel like they got a little too cute in an effort to be esoteric, especially at the end. Conversely, The Birdcage is just good old-fashioned fun. It ends with Gene Hackman in drag dancing thru a gay nightclub to the sounds of Sister Sledge’s We Are Family. How great is that?!?!??

80’s Movie Mania: Tubular Round 2

Welcome to Round Two of 80’s Movie Mania. This round will feature 20 films that we have yet to discuss, as five in each division received first round byes. I would really appreciate Manoverse participation, as all of these combatants have their own merits and it’s going to be very difficult to make certain choices. In situations where I am forced to decide a winner my own bias is a key factor. I appreciate the fact that some movies have been critically acclaimed, made lots of money at the box office, or won a plethora of awards. Those are all influential elements. However, at the end of the day it all comes down to one big question: If I am sitting around The Bachelor Palace on a lazy rainy afternoon with nothing else better to do than flip thru the channels or hop on Netflix and check out a good old movie what would I choose to watch?? That is the overriding guiding light. In many cases I can be persuaded in one direction or another which…theoretically…is where YOU come in. Let’s make it happen. At any rate, we’ll kick off the 2nd Round with the Tubular Division, and as always thanks so much for taking time to visit The Manofesto.

 

 

 

Tubular 2

 

The Blues Brothers               vs.              European Vacation

european_vacationbb31980’s The Blues Brothers received a first round bye and makes its Mania debut right now. Starring Dan Aykroyd & John Belushi as a couple of musicians/career criminals with a robust admiration for blues music, the idea sprouted from a Saturday Night Live skit in which Jake & Elwood Blues, clad in dark suits, fedoras, & sunglasses, would perform on the show. After three SNL appearances their popularity grew to the point that they were doing concerts and producing albums. The film finds Jake being released from prison and both brothers “putting the band back together” to save the orphanage in which Jake & Elwood grew up. It features fantastic cameos from the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Chaka Khan, Joe Walsh, & John Lee Hooker, and has stars such as John Candy, Carrie Fisher, Steven Spielberg, & Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman) in bit parts. The soundtrack is amazing for those of us that like that particular kind of music. A sequel was made in 1998, but as much as I like John Goodman he’s no Belushi. European Vacation defeated Three Amigos! in Round 1 and is a lot better than people may recall. Taking the Griswold clan out of the car and putting them in different locations across Europe was a really interesting idea. The two actors portraying Rusty & Audrey are my least favorite of all that have inhabited the roles. It’s a tall order to live up to the original Vacation, but this one gives it a good go.

 

The Verdict:       The Blues Brothers. Great cast. Awesome music. Fun cameos. It’s a cult classic for a reason.

 

 

 

 

Lethal Weapon                      vs.              La Bamba

lw1987’s Lethal Weapon received a first round bye, while La Bamba got the decision over Three Men & A labamba2Baby. Lethal Weapon is an action flick, which is usually not my cup of tea. However, the cast is so good and the script is infused with enough humor & character development that it rises above the usual limitations of the genre. Mel Gibson plays a cop on the edge after the unfortunate death of his wife. He is paired with Danny Glover as an older officer pondering life after the police department. Riggs & Murtaugh are a classic film duo…one a loose cannon with nothing to lose and the other a by-the-book family man who just wants to ease into retirement. They are forced to put their differences aside and investigate an apparent suicide that develops into a much more sinister case. The supporting cast is superb, including Gary Busey as a crazy felon…a role he was born to play. The first film was followed by three sequels that I personally like just fine, but none quite recapture the original magic. La Bamba re-introduced the world to Ritchie Valens, a young singer who died tragically in a plane crash that famously also took the lives of 50’s rockers Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. Valens was only 17 years old at the time of his demise and had produced a few hits, including Donna, Come On Let’s Go, & La Bamba. One cannot help but wonder what he could have become had he lived. It is my understanding that his influence on the Latino community has been immense and I am glad that, with the help of this film, he finally got some well-deserved recognition from the masses.

 

The Verdict:       Lethal Weapon. How can you not love it?? It’s got action, atmosphere, great characters, & lots of fun.

 

 

 

 

Ghostbusters                         vs.              Mr. Mom

ghostI know there is a remake coming out soon, but who cares?? It can’t possibly live up to the original 1984 mr momGhostbusters, which enters this contest after having a 1st Round bye. Starring Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Ernie Hudson, & Harold Ramis as a team of ghost hunters way before such a profession became fashionable and the paranormal evolved into a widespread cultural fad, the cast also includes Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, & Sigourney Weaver as well as cameos by Larry King, Casey Kasem, Bill Walton, & Ron Jeremy (yes…THAT Ron Jeremy). The movie also features an infectious theme song by Ray Parker Jr., who hasn’t done anything notable since. Mr. Mom defeated Porky’s in the first round. It was the ninth highest grossing movie of 1983, ahead of competition like Risky Business, National Lampoon’s Vacation, The Big Chill, Scarface, & A Christmas Story. Impressive indeed. Michael Keaton did about a half dozen good movies in the 1980’s and this is probably my second favorite.

 

The Verdict:       Mr. Mom. It’s another upset for the underrated Mr. Mom. I know there are Ghostbusters enthusiasts out there that would strongly disagree with the decision, but again it comes down to repeat viewings and what I would choose to watch while channel surfing, and the fact is that I’ve seen Mr. Mom a hundred times and would likely always choose it over Ghostbusters.

 

 

 

 

Dirty Dancing                         vs.              Moonstruck

dd2After receiving a first round bye 1987’s Dirty Dancing enters the fray. Mostly what people remembermoonstruck2 about Dirty Dancing is A) it starred Patrick Swayze, B) the fantastic soundtrack, & C) the dancing…of course. That is probably enough to qualify it as a quintessential 80’s time capsule movie, but it also had a storyline. It takes place in the early 60’s at an exclusive resort in New York’s Catskill Mountains and features Jennifer Grey as a young woman who receives forbidden dance lessons from the resort’s dance instructor Johnny Castle (a really cool name) and falls for him. The romance is classic Romeo/Juliet, good girl/”bad” guy, right/wrong side of the tracks stuff, but the formula works as long as there is a creative spin. Moonstruck beat out Flashdance in Round 1 and interestingly runs up against more musically inclined competition here. Having grown up in an Italian family I appreciate the broad strokes in Moonstruck, and really enjoy the performance of Nicolas Cage. It was the 5th highest grossing film of 1987, ahead of La Bamba, Lethal Weapon, and yes…Dirty Dancing. Cher may be nuttier than a fruitcake but she has been in some damn fine movies.

 

The Verdict:       Dirty Dancing. Moonstruck is undoubtedly the “better” movie by almost any metric. However, Dirty Dancing is the more memorable movie. For anyone who came of age in the 1980’s it is one of the signature films of that era, and it seems to be that the things we enjoyed as teenagers…movies, songs, TV shows, etc…leave an indelible mark on our soul.

 

 

 

 

 

The Big Chill                          vs.              Scarface

1983’s The Big Chill is undeniably a commentary on 60’s rebels facing the perils of adulthood in the scarface2“greedy” Reagan era. But it is also a universal story about growing up and understanding that, though college may have been the best time of your life, there comes a time when it is necessary to move forward. The cast…featuring stars like Jeff Goldblum, Kevin Cline, Glenn Close, Tom Berenger, & William Hurt…is unsurpassed. They gather together to mourn the suicide of a close friend who was to be portrayed by Kevin Costner, but his flashback scenes got cut, which is unfortunate. The Big Chill may have been the genesis for my appreciation of the dramedy, because goshdarnit I like to have some laughs mixed into my tragedy. Scarface easily beat out License to Drive in Round 1 because Al Pacino will kick the snot out of as many Coreys as you can throw at him. It was only the 16th highest grossing film of 1983, behind stinkers like Jaws 3-D, Superman III, & Staying Alive, which perfectly illustrates both the pitfalls of sequels and exactly why they get made in the first place.

 

The Verdict:        The Big Chill. Some movies appeal to a very specific target audience. Scarface fits that bill, and I am not the kind of moviegoer that really enjoys violence, rampant drug use, & abundant gunfire. I prefer to laugh. The Big Chill isn’t a comedy, but it is well-written with great performances and really speaks to me on a deeper level.

 

 

 

 

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure   vs.     WarGames

Bill-and-TedNeither of these opponents had a first round bye. Bill & Ted beat out Mel Brooks’ History of the World wargames2Part 1, while WarGames got a Round 1 victory over The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. WarGames was the fifth highest grossing film of 1983. Bill & Ted ranked 32nd at the 1989 box office. A more useful indicator may be Rotten Tomatoes, where WarGames has a 93% Fresh rating and Bill & Ted has a 79% Fresh rating. Well okay…maybe that isn’t quite as helpful as I’d hoped.

 

The Verdict:       WarGames. It’s a tossup, and I am tempted to leave it in the hands of The Manoverse, but I am resisting the temptation. WarGames might be a tad bit dated and a candidate to be remade with more modern technology, but that is part of the charm that definitively marks it as an 80’s film. The Cold War is a relic of the past and we face new dangers nowadays, but the fear & paranoia felt by many back then can’t be matched. WarGames is the perfect blend of subtle social commentary and edge-of-your-seat fun. It is the rare action-adventure flick without much violence. A masterstroke indeed.