Yes West Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…or atleast there used to be a long time ago. Saint Nicholas was a 4th century clergyman in Turkey. He is the patron saint of sailors, merchants, archers, repentant thieves, children, brewers, pawnbrokers, & unmarried people, and is well known for his practice of secret gift giving. That very real bishop gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus (aka Kris Kringle, Jolly Old Saint Nick, Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Sinter Klaas, et al). As a central figure in our modern celebration of Christmas he is not without controversy, but unlike some of my Christian brothers & sisters I take no issue with Santa’s role in our merriment. I choose to see him as a friend & servant of Christ, spreading joy, generosity, & good cheer thru his interactions with children of all ages. Pop culture has embraced Santa Claus for centuries, and he ranks right up there with characters like Sherlock Holmes & Dracula in the countless times & ways he has been portrayed. In pondering that very subject I began thinking about all of the great & not so great depictions of Santa thru the years, and decided to present…..
from the home office in Santa Claus, IN…..
The Superfluous 7 Best (And Worst) Fictional Santa Clauses:
7 Worst – Santa Claus (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
It is only thru the prism of adulthood that we begin to understand that this Santa is kind of an ass!! While it isn’t surprising that other reindeer bully Rudolph about his…physical deformity…we expect more from Santa, who essentially says the whole red nose thing might prevent Rudolph from making his sleigh team. But then the weather gets bad (as if snowstorms are rare at The North Pole 🤷🏻♂️) and, like so many of us flawed human beings, Santa suddenly warms up to Rudolph when he realizes that red nose just might be advantageous. In other words, Rudolph is disposable until Santa needs to use him, which is pretty disheartening.
Best – Santa Claus (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)
For those of us of a certain age the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animated holiday specials produced in the 1960s & 70s are quintessential Christmas and represent a huge piece of our childhood. 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was the first of those TV specials and is still shown annually a half century later. While Rudolph, Hermey the Elf, & Yukon Cornelius take center stage, The Jolly Old Elf is there as a supporting character, and, despite his questionable attitude, he is the first Santa many encounter on television as kids. He has the red suit, the full white beard, a deep booming voice, & the requisite “Ho Ho Ho!”.
6 Worst – Nick Claus (Fred Claus)
This one hurts because I freakin’ love Paul Giamatti. From his breakout role in Howard Stern’s Private Parts to the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon to portraying quirky writer Harvey Pekar in American Splendor to my personal favorite Sideways (a critically acclaimed yet underrated gem), Giamatti quietly became one of the most undervalued actors in Hollywood about two decades ago. It’s not that Giamatti is miscast as Sadsack Santa because vaguely depressed is kind of his wheelhouse, it’s the fact that characterizing Santa that way simply doesn’t feel right. Fred Claus isn’t a good movie to begin with, despite the presence of Vince Vaughn, Giamatti, & Oscar winner Kevin Spacey, but a milquetoast Santa with family drama who gets bullied by a bitter efficiency expert (🤔🤷🏻♂️👀) isn’t the least bit amusing. To top it off, Santa is unable to deliver gifts on Christmas Eve due to a back injury, so it’s up to his slacker brother to get the job done. And I’m supposed to laugh??
Best – The Norelco Santa Claus
From 1961-89 it was an annual tradition for Norelco (a division of electronics conglomerate Philips) to hawk their electric razor with a commercial featuring Santa Claus. This Santa didn’t say anything, he just zoomed thru snow covered hills utilizing an electric shaver head as a sleigh while a voiceover detailed the latest razor on the market that you might want to gift Dad, Grandpa, or any other man on your list. The irony of a full-bearded Santa shilling for a razor never occurred to me back then, and now those commercials (thankfully available on YouTube) provide a healthy dose of nostalgia, which becomes a huge part of the Christmas experience as one grows older.
5 Worst – Higbee’s Santa (A Christmas Story)
“Find a job you enjoy doing and you will never work a day in your life” is a quote I’ve seen attributed to both Mark Twain & Confucius, but the truth is that the vast majority of adults hate their job. We have bills to pay & oftentimes families to support, so you do what you have to do. Nobody embodies this ethos more than the department store Santa in our favorite 1983 holiday classic. In his brief time on screen he moans about possibly having to work overtime, shows utter disdain for the children standing in line to see him, grows impatient with a very nervous Ralphie, and literally kicks the boy in the face. Far from the jolly, kindhearted, magical elf we think of Santa being, this version is just Joe Sixpack anxiously awaiting the end of his shift, probably so he can go home, smoke a bowl, watch some porn, and eat a bologna sandwich with mustard dripping all over his wifebeater.
Best – Kris Kringle (Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town)
I love a good origin story, and this is the best explanation of all things Santa. Another well done Rankin-Bass production, it shows how a baby named Claus is abandoned, then found & raised by a family of toymakers named Kringle. When he grows up Kris volunteers to deliver toys to children in nearby Sombertown, ruled by the malevolent Burgermeister Meisterburger. Kris meets & falls in love with schoolteacher Jessica, who eventually becomes Mrs. Claus. He is forced to go down chimneys & leave toys in stockings after Meisterburger orders a lockdown (must be a Democrat). Jessica asks the Winter Warlock for help in freeing an imprisoned Kris, and he does so by feeding magic corn to reindeer, enabling them to fly. While in hiding Kris grows a beard, marries Jessica, & builds a toy empire at The North Pole. He decides that he’ll deliver gifts on one special night each year…Christmas Eve. It’s quite neat to have questions surrounding the Santa mythos answered, and seeing him grow from a baby to a red haired young man to the white-haired old man in a red suit we all know & love is delightful.
4 Worst – Emo Santa (The Year Without a Santa Claus)
Men are infamous whiners when we fall ill, but this dude takes the cake. Voiced by the legendary Mickey Rooney, this Santa Claus just isn’t feeling the good vibes or appreciation that he expects, so he sends forth the decree that Christmas is cancelled. It is this sort of thing that makes a lot of religious folks dislike Santa, as if he has the ultimate authority to cancel Christmas. Hollywood notoriously avoids focusing on the true Reason for the Season, something I reluctantly made peace with long ago. However, to insinuate that Santa Claus is in charge of the entire holiday is a bit much. And really, the guy isn’t even physically sick. He’s desperately seeking validation & an ego boost, and perhaps suffers from Seasonal Affective Disorder. He should ask himself for some Vitamin D pills or a Sunlight Therapy Lamp for Christmas.
Best – The Coca-Cola Santa Claus
Coca-Cola’s signature red & white colors sync perfectly with Santa Claus, right?? However, it wasn’t always that way. If you look at visual depictions of Santa from the early 20th century or before how he looks varies widely. Sometimes he’s tall & thin, other times (in tune with his role as the Jolly Old Elf) he is seen as…well, elf size. He might be wearing the long & flowing robes of a typical bishop, or even military gear. When Coke began using Santa in advertising campaigns in the 1930s they hired illustrator Haddon Sundblom to create a warm & friendly Santa with rosy cheeks, an amiable smile, & that twinkle in his eye. He appears as a full-grown man with an ample mid-section. Sunblom’s Santa became the standard, and his nostalgic drawings can still give one all the feels.
3 Worst – The Santas That Killed Grandma & Kissed Mommy
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (recorded in 1952 by 13 year old Jimmy Boyd) and Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer (recorded by Elmo & Patsy in 1979) are two of the most enduring novelty songs of the holiday season, and I can’t stand them. Despite the title of the song, the kid’s drunken grandmother didn’t technically get killed by reindeer. The lyrics even indicate that the corpse had “incriminating Claus marks on her back” and warns “they should never give a license to a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves”. Santa should’ve been arrested for vehicular manslaughter!! The other song is only marginally better. No one dies, but a child seeing Mom play tonsil hockey with Santa is likely going to need therapy. He thinks Dad will get a good laugh out of his wife being a skank, but that’s probably way too optimistic.
Best – Scott Calvin (The Santa Clause Trilogy)
I love the origin story of The Santa Clause. Rather than having Santa be one guy who magically lives forever it is depicted as a role that one person takes over when the previous portrayer dies. It makes a lot of logical sense. Scott Calvin is just an Average Joe, a middle-aged divorced Dad navigating associated pitfalls like custody issues & the ex wife’s new boyfriend, all while working 9 to 5 as an executive for a toy manufacturer (convenient). The whole deal with Santa falling off the roof is a little weird, but we soon forget it once Scott & his young son Charlie are transported to The North Pole. When Scott fully embraces his new life and becomes ensconced in the ultimate dream job it is truly magical. It’s a very modern perspective on the Santa Claus mythology, but with just enough notes of enchantment to make it special.
2 Worst – Willie T. Soke (Bad Santa)
Y’all know how much I love Christmas movies. Whether it’s a Santa Claus story, wacky family hijinks, or one of the plethora of adaptations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I’m always ready to jump onboard the Holiday Film Train. That being said, while I realize there are folks who absolutely love this “modern classic” from 2003, I’m not one of them. Willie is another mall Santa, but he’s even worse than the guy from A Christmas Story because he & his “elf” sidekick are pulling a long con…working at the mall until right before Christmas, then cleaning out the safe. But wait, there’s more!! Not only is Santa Willie a thief, he’s also a drunken, foul mouthed nymphomaniac who has sex with women in the mall dressing room & parking lot. On top of all that he is befriended by a mentally challenged young boy who he proceeds to take advantage of throughout the film. I’m no prude, and enjoy the occasional dark comedy, but come on man…this movie makes Die Hard look like a rom-com. They actually produced a sequel about five years ago, and it’s less amusing than the original.
Best – St. Nick (A Visit from St. Nicholas)
Published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel newspaper in 1823, it wasn’t until almost fifteen years later that Clement Clark Moore claimed authorship. At the time Moore was a middle-aged professor at a New York City seminary. The poem is very descriptive and solidified the Santa Claus persona, creating the perception most everyone has of him to this day. The idea that he is “jolly”. He rides a flying sleigh pulled by eight reindeer (and he gives us their names!!). He arrives on Christmas Eve and comes down the chimney. The twinkling eyes, jiggly belly, white beard, & rosy cheeks. It’s a beautiful story, one that many parents read to their children on Christmas Eve. I have always opined that anything…books, music, film & TV, etc…that we are still enjoying decades after its initial release deserves respect, and in this case we’re talking about a poem & a vivid interpretation of Santa Claus that has stood the test of time for two centuries.
1 Worst – Billy Chapman (Silent Night Deadly Night)
When I was a teenager our church had an active & tightly knit youth group. We shared some awesome times, one of those being our annual Progressive Dinner during which we’d have appetizers at one house, salad at the next, then go to another place for an entree, and finally end up at the home of our youth leaders for dessert. We’d stay there quite late, eating junk food, playing cards, and watching movies (oh to be a teen again). On one of these delightful evenings we watched a slasher film in which a young boy witnesses his parents get carjacked & murdered by Santa Claus. Billy ends up in an orphanage, grows up with…issues (shocker)…and becomes a murderous Santa himself. Look, I know that there are people who love this kind of thing, but horror films have never been my cup o’ tea, and involving Santa in such craziness, while undeniably creative, just isn’t entertaining. Surprisingly enough the movie birthed four sequels, and I think they’re going to remake the original.
Best – Kris Kringle (Miracle on 34th Street)
The first Christmas movie I watch every year actually begins its story on Thanksgiving, at the Macy’s Parade in NY City. When the man originally hired by the department store to portray Santa Claus is found intoxicated, kindly old Kris Kringle is Johnny On-the-Spot and takes over the gig. Along the way he befriends his world weary boss, her precocious daughter, & a quixotic attorney who is sweet on the single Mom. After claiming to be the REAL Santa the good-natured old man finds himself in a looney bin then on trial. Edmund Gwenn won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Kris Kringle, and of all the Santas ever seen on the big screen his is simply the best. He makes you want to believe that Santa Claus could actually be real.
If you haven’t read the intro to this series please do so that you have some idea of what’s this is all about, and if you’re a Tom Hanks fan you might want to go here (but then come straight back).
I could sit & listen to Morgan Freeman talk for hours. He has one of the greatest voices in the history of entertainment and is the definition of a late bloomer. Though he’d been a stage actor since the early 60’s & had some small, uncredited roles in forgettable films, the earliest work most remember him for is the PBS children’s educational series The Electric Company in the 1970’s. Even then, he didn’t really become a “movie star” until the 80’s when he was nearly 50 years old. To be honest his filmography is kind of hit & miss for me, so I gave sincere consideration to which of his works I’d enjoy spending a weekend watching. You may disagree with my choices, but I think the lineup presented here is solid. Freeman isn’t necessarily a leading man in the truest sense of that concept, but he makes anything he is in better.
I’m not into horror movies at all, and even thrillers aren’t really my thing. I much prefer something that’ll put a smile on my face. There are exceptions to every rule though. Seven follows two cops on the trail of a serial killer who uses the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, & sloth) as a theme for his…work. The psychopath is portrayed by Kevin Spacey and the detectives are played by Freeman & Brad Pitt, so it’s probably fair to say that Freeman is a distant third when it comes to star power in the cast, which kind of proves my point. Seven would have done well at the box office with Pitt & Spacey as the headliners, but the presence of Morgan Freeman makes it a better movie. If you’ve never seen it I won’t spoil the ending, but wow…it’s really good.
Now You See Me
Perhaps I am one of the few who enjoys repeat viewings of this movie. It follows a group of magicians who use their skills to rob people & banks. Freeman portrays a jaded magician who now makes money exposing the secrets of magic. The cast includes Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, and a few up & comers, so once again Morgan Freeman’s true role is to add gravitas to the ensemble, which is kind of his thing. Now You See Me has a tepid 50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but finished 23rd at the box office in 2013, more than quadrupling its $75 million dollar budget. What that means is the stuffy, austere critics found all the flaws while Joe Sixpack just enjoyed watching a fun caper. A sequel came out a few years later, but wasn’t nearly as entertaining. I understand why Hollywood makes sequels, but sometimes lightning in a bottle just can’t be duplicated. It is my understanding that a third film is in development, and I hope it’s as slick & clever as the original, although I won’t hold my breath.
The Shawshank Redemption
Many people promote The Shawshank Redemption as one of the greatest films of all time, and I wouldn’t argue too vociferously with those folks. As mentioned, I tend to gravitate toward lighter, more breezy fare, so prison flicks don’t usually earn my attention, but you know the drill…there are exceptions. Shawshank is actually based on a Stephen King novella. I’ve never read the book, but cannot imagine it could be better than the movie. Morgan Freeman portrays Red Redding, who has been imprisoned for two decades when we first meet him for a double homicide that he admits he’s guilty of but now deeply regrets. Red becomes best buds with Andy Dufresne, a young banker wrongly convicted of killing his wife & her lover. Lots of bad things happen at the prison, which is led by a corrupt warden. Andy eventually escapes, and (spoiler alert) several years later Red is paroled and reunites with his friend. Shawshank received seven Academy Award nominations, including a Best Actor nod for Freeman, which was his third of five Oscar nominations (he’s won once). It didn’t do well at the box office at all, but became one of the earlier movies to find success thru video rentals & being shown on television with some frequency. It’s almost embarrassing to realize almost thirty years later that The Shawshank Redemption made less money in theaters than balderdash like Natural Born Killers, The Shadow, Jason’s Lyric, & House Party 3.
It feels appropriate to spend Sunday afternoon with a film in which Morgan Freeman plays God. Once again he’s not the star…it’s Jim Carrey’s show, but God seems like a role tailor made for Freeman. He helps guide Carrey’s Bruce, an unhappy TV reporter who blames his crappy life on God. That’s when The Big Guy shows up and offers Bruce an opportunity to be in charge for a few days. Hilarity ensues and Bruce (along with the audience) learns a few valuable lessons along the way. Critics were lukewarm in their reviews, but it was the fifth highest grossing film of 2003. It’s one of those movies that’ll amuse you for a couple of hours & make you chuckle, but won’t really make an impact on your memory.
Speaking of impact…
1998 saw the release of two movies in which an asteroid threatens the existence of life on Earth. Armageddon had the cooler movie stars and made a bunch more money (finishing a far distant second to the juggernaut that was Titanic), but I’ve always had a soft spot for Deep Impact. While the cast isn’t as popular as the competition (whatever happened to Tea Leoni??) Morgan Freeman is there as the President of the United States, another role that seems tailor made for him. What does Freeman do?? Say it with me now…he makes anything he is in better. I believe Deep Impact has superior writing & features better performances than Armageddon, and our guy contributes significantly to that perception. And oh by the way…it still finished 7th at the box office that year despite mixed reviews (45% on Rotten Tomatoes compared to 38% for Armageddon, so critics weren’t impressed with either film).
“Movies touch our hearts, awaken our vision, and change the way we see things. They take us to other places…open doors & minds. Movies are the memories of our lifetime.” – Martin Scorsese
We’re going to forego a verbose preamble today and jump right into the fray. If you have not read Part 1 please go back and do so at your leisure. As always I appreciate everyone who stops by to read the things that are written here, and your feedback is welcome.
90 Ma & Pa Kettle (various films)
Ma & Pa Kettle starred in ten films from 1947-57. They are simple country bumpkins raising their brood of 16 kids on the family farm, and the movies put them into various fish-out-of-water scenarios like trips to New York, Hawaii, & Paris, as well as winning a “house of the future” in a contest. I seem to recall that the Kettle films were shown on Saturday morning television with some frequency during my childhood. That was way before channels like TCM & AMC, so I assume it had to be a local syndication type of deal. I also have a vague recollection that it was my Dad who enjoyed watching Ma & Pa Kettle and introduced me to the movies.
“It may be a good day for you, but it ain’t for Pa. All the poor man wanted was a new tobacco pouch and instead he won a house he didn’t want and he got a bad sunburn.” (Ma)
“You do all the barkin’, but it’s me that’s always in the doghouse.” (Pa)
“You mean, Pa & Me’s got to support all our kids and the government too?” (Ma)
“Pa, you’re lazier than that old hound dog we used to have.” “Which one?” “The one that used to lean against the wall when she barked.”
89 Thelma Dickinson & Louise Sawyer (Thelma & Louise)
Full disclosure…I believe I’ve only watched Thelma & Louise once, but that was enough. The duo are southern ladies taking a girls’ trip to escape from their mundane existence, but things go awry when a drunken rabble-rouser tries to rape Thelma and Louise kills him. Of course we all know that in TV & movies no one ever does the smart thing by calling the police…instead they get spooked & go on the run, which is the foundation for the adventure that follows. Nearly three decades later many of us still refer to mischievous gal pals as Thelma & Louise.
“You said you ‘n’ me was gonna get out of town and for once just really let our hair down. Well darlin’, look out ’cause my hair is comin’ down!” (Thelma)
“You get what you settle for.” (Louise)
“He kinda prides himself on being infantile.” (Thelma)
“Good morning everybody, this is a robbery. Now if nobody loses their head, nobody will lose their head. Simon says everybody lay down on the floor, right away, right away, except you sir. You’ll have a story to tell your friends, that or a tag on your toe, it’s your decision.” (Thelma)
“I feel really awake. I don’t recall ever feeling this awake. You know? Everything looks different now. You feel like that? You feel like you got something to live for now?” (Thelma)
88 Raymond Babbitt (Rain Man)
I’m not sure anyone in history has done more to promote awareness of autism than Raymond Babbitt. Dustin Hoffman won his second Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of Raymond, a savant whose deceased father left him millions that his scheming brother is trying to get from him. It is rare for Tom Cruise to be outshined in any film, but Raymond’s charming blend of pathos, humor, & vulnerability does the trick.
“I’m an excellent driver.”
“13 minutes to Judge Wapner and The People’s Court.”
87 Dr. Frank N. Furter (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
Some films have broad appeal, and I assume that is what the powers-that-be are going for most of the time. However, there is no shortage of movies that are focused on a rather specific target audience. I haven’t seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show since I was in college, sitting out in a field late at night throwing rice & toilet paper at the screen, but that’s okay since it is exactly the kind of weird, drunken, relatively innocuous, & completely stupid experience one should have at 19, because if that’s how you spend your weekend when your 35 or 50 it becomes a bit disturbing. Dr. Furter describes himself as a “sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania”, which seems like a fitting description. Unforgettable name?? Check. Unique outfit?? Check. Quirky as all get-out?? You bet. Actor Tim Curry has been nominated for Tony Awards, starred in films like The Hunt for Red October & Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, and portrayed Pennywise in the TV miniseries of Stephen King’s It, but he will most likely always be remembered as Dr. Frank N. Furter.
“Tonight, my unconventional conventionalists, you are about to witness a new breakthrough in biochemical research, and paradise is to be mine!”
“Don’t be upset…it was a mercy killing. He had a certain naïve charm, but no muscle.”
86 Mick “Crocodile” Dundee (Crocodile Dundee)
Let’s face it…the only reason any of us in the good ol’ USA has ever requested for someone to “throw another shrimp on the barbie” is because Crocodile Dundee taught us what that means in 1986. Outback Steakhouse was created in Tampa, FL two years after the film’s release in hopes of capitalizing on America’s newfound fascination with Australia. Two Dundee sequels were produced, but neither had the magic of the original, a classic fish-out-of-water tale featuring a most unconventional protagonist.
“Get on the right side of the road you pelican!”
“That’s not a knife…THAT’S a knife.”
“Well, you see, Aborigines don’t own the land…they belong to it. It’s like their mother. See those rocks? Been standing there for 600 million years…still be there when you & I are gone. So arguing over who owns them is like two fleas arguing over who owns the dog they live on.”
“Imagine seven million people all wanting to live together. New York must be the friendliest place on earth.”
85 Tommy DeVito (Goodfellas)
Not too long ago I saw a poll on Facebook asking about the best mob movie and was stunned when Goodfellas beat out The Godfather, because in my humble opinion The Godfather cannot be touched. Having said that, it is a rather unfair comparison. The Godfather is an Shakespearean fantasy with lots of Hollywood style & polish, whereas Goodfellas is more raw & down-to-earth. Inasmuch as The Mafia still exists in modern America I assume Goodfellas is probably a more accurate portrayal, but for me that doesn’t necessarily equal entertainment value. It’s kind of the same thing as people who fawn all over Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy because of its gritty realism, while I lean toward the escapism of the Burton/Schumacher Batman flicks from the late 80’s/early 90’s. At any rate, actor Joe Pesci had done Raging Bull in 1980 and added some life to the Lethal Weapon franchise in 1989 so Goodfellas wasn’t his first rodeo, but Tommy DeVito has become one of his defining roles (we’ll get to another a bit later). DeVito is loosely based on real life gangster “Two Gun Tommy” DiSimone, a NY City gangster who “disappeared” in January 1979. Two Gun Tommy was much younger, not to mention physically bigger & stronger, than the diminutive, middle-aged, fast-talking tough guy depicted in the film, but other mobsters have said that Pesci’s portrayal…for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor…is otherwise fairly accurate.
“What do you mean I’m funny? What do you mean? You mean the way I talk? What? You mean, let me understand this, ’cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?”
84 Larry Talbot (The Wolf Man)
Y’all know that I’m not a horror movie fan, but for some reason I love the old Universal monsters from the 1930’s & 40’s. Talbot is a mild-mannered man who returns to Wales after two decades in America to reconcile with his estranged father. He is bitten by a werewolf while trying to rescue a damsel in distress, and thereafter becomes a werewolf himself. After committing a series of murders he is eventually bludgeoned to death by his own father, who doesn’t realize The Wolf Man is his son. Lon Chaney Jr.’s portrayal of Talbot as quiet & reserved and emotionally tortured by his infirmity is the perfect contrast to the ferocity of the beast.
“You think I don’t know the difference between a wolf and a man? You’re insane! I tell you, I killed a wolf! A plain, ordinary wolf! Don’t try to make me believe that I killed a man when I know that I killed a wolf!”
83 Tony Montana (Scarface)
I don’t rate Scarface as highly as some simply because I tend not to like movies about crime & drugs…it’s just not my kind of entertainment. Having said that, there’s no denying that Tony Montana is a memorable character. Tony arrives in Miami from Cuba and starts his new life as a dishwasher. A few years later he is a wealthy drug lord with an unhealthy cocaine addiction. As is the case with such characters there is a lot of bloodshed, ultimately ending (spoiler alert) with Tony face down in a fountain after having been shot in the back by a rival’s henchman. Critics like to attach meaning to films like Scarface, seeing it as some sort of allegory about rising & falling, the excesses of the American Dream, or a commentary on criminal avarice, but I prefer to learn such lessons without all the violence & profanity. Italian-American Pacino seems like an odd choice to portray a Cuban, and I’m not sure that would fly in our newly woke culture just a few decades later. Interestingly, Robert DeNiro was the first choice for the role of Tony Montana but he declined the opportunity.
“This is paradise. This is paradise, I’m tellin’ you. I shoulda come here 10 years ago. I’d have been a millionaire by this time. By this time, I’d have had my own boat, my own car, my own golf course.”
“Me, I always tell the truth…even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through! Better get outta his way!”
“This country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the woman.”
“Okay, you little cockroaches… come on! You wanna play games? Okay, I can play with you. Come on! Okay, you wanna play rough?!?!?? Okay! SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND!”
82 Deputy U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard (The Fugitive)
Other than its love of sequels the other way that Hollywood plays it safe by not being particularly innovative is to recycle old television shows and bring them…or atleast the central premise…to the big screen, with the results being decidedly mixed. The Dukes of Hazzard, Leave it to Beaver, & The Wild Wild West weren’t good movies, while The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, & Charlie’s Angels were decent enough. One of the best movie adaptations of a TV show is The Fugitive, with Harrison Ford portraying erroneously convicted Dr. Richard Kimble. While the television show had Dr. Kimble doggedly pursued across the country by local police Lt. Philip Gerard, the film kicks it up a notch by making the hunter no nonsense U.S Marshal Sam Gerard, although the quest is essentially limited to Chicago. Tommy Lee Jones won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Gerard, and became the focus of the story in a much inferior sequel a few years later. In the movie neither Kimble nor Gerard resemble the television characters they are based on all that much, but in this case the adaptation is actually better than the original.
“Let that be a lesson to you, boys & girls. Don’t ever argue with the Big Dog, because the Big Dog is always right.”
“Listen up, ladies & gentlemen! Our fugitive has been on the run for 90 minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is 4 miles per hour and that gives us a radius of 6 miles. What I want out of each & every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive’s name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him.”
81 Walter Sobchak (The Big Lebowski)
Lebowski is a weird movie, but it sure is fun to watch when a particular mood strikes. One of the key reasons for its success is John Goodman’s portrayal of Walter, the foul-mouthed, slightly unhinged, but loyal best buddy of the film’s protagonist. I’ve never been a fan of Goodman’s infamous TV show Roseanne in any of its incarnations, but I sure have enjoyed his big screen career. Raising Arizona. Everybody’s All-American. The Hangover Part III. They may not be transcendent films, but they’re enjoyable enough and better because Goodman is in them. Walter is most definitely second fiddle in Lebowksi, but that’s okay…great movies need supporting characters that add a colorful layer to the story, and in this case the mission is certainly accomplished.
“Donny, you’re out of your element! Dude, the Chinaman is not the issue here!”
“Nihilists! I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”
“Lady, I got buddies who died face down in the muck so that you & I could enjoy this family restaurant!”
“You want a toe? I can get you a toe. Believe me. There are ways, Dude.”
“Life does not start and stop at your convenience, you miserable piece of shit!”
“You know, Dude, I myself dabbled in pacifism once. Not in ‘Nam of course.”
“We’re talking about unchecked aggression here, Dude.”
“Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”
80 Captain Louis Renault (Casablanca)
¾ of a century after its theatrical release Casablanca is still regarded as one of the best movies ever produced. There are multiple reasons for that, but one of them is Capt. Renault, a cynical & slightly corrupt French policeman. Casablanca is the largest city in Morocco on the coast of Africa. During World War II it was a vital strategic port, and since a large chunk of Europe was controlled by the Nazis travel was limited, hence the importance of the film’s “letters of transit” (a true film MacGuffin…in reality no such documents existed). Capt. Renault plays all sides, loyal only to his own needs & desires…or so we are led to believe until the film’s conclusion. He isn’t a clichéd movie bad guy…he seems pleasant enough, and in fact has some of the more blithe dialogue. It is rare for an alleged villain to add levity to the story, but that is exactly what Renault does, which is probably why I like him. Actor Claude Rains played more conventional antagonists in films like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious, and earned four Academy Award nominations in his career, but Casablanca was the beginning of a beautiful friendship with the audience and Cpt. Renault.
“I’m making out the report now. We haven’t quite decided whether he committed suicide or died trying to escape.”
“It is a little game we play. They put it on the bill, I tear up the bill. It is very convenient.”
“I have no conviction, if that’s what you mean. I blow with the wind, and the prevailing wind happens to be from Vichy.
“How extravagant you are, throwing away women like that. Someday they may be scarce.”
“You mustn’t underestimate American blundering. I was with them when they “blundered” into Berlin in 1918.”
“I told my men to be especially destructive. You know how that impresses Germans.”
“Everybody is to leave here immediately! This cafe is closed until further notice. Clear the room, at once! I am shocked…shocked…to find that gambling is going on in here!”
“Well, Rick, you’re not only a sentimentalist, but you’ve become a patriot.”
“Round up the usual suspects!”
79 Jack Dawson & Rose DeWitt-Bukater (Titanic)
For several years Titanic was the highest grossing film of all time, and it swept thru the 1997 awards season like a tornado. Critics & the general populace both love it, but one of the few condemnations I seem to recall hearing back then was that the main focus wasn’t on actual people who lost their lives in the infamous tragedy. Instead the spotlight was given to two fictional characters in Jack & Rose. They are essentially a riff on Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. He’s a good-natured American guy from the wrong side of the tracks heading home to Wisconsin, while she is a prim & proper British debutante who hates her rigid life. In the course of three hours we become invested in them individually and in their love story. They may not be based on real people, but as composite characters I believe they are solid representatives of the 1500 souls lost on that catastrophic night.
“I’m the king of the world!” (Jack)
“Do you know of Dr. Freud, Mr. Ismay? His ideas about the male preoccupation with size might be of particular interest to you.” (Rose)
“I’m not an idiot. I know how the world works. I’ve got ten bucks in my pocket. I have nothing to offer you and I know that. I understand. But I’m too involved now. You jump, I jump, remember? I can’t turn away without knowing you’ll be all right.” (Jack)
“I’m flying, Jack!” (Rose)
“I got everything I need right here with me. I got air in my lungs, a few blank sheets of paper. I mean, I love waking up in the morning not knowing what’s gonna happen or, who I’m gonna meet, where I’m gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. You don’t know what hand you’re gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you… to make each day count.” (Jack)
“Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls. Wearing this…wearing only this.” (Rose)
“I don’t know about you, but I intend to go write a strongly worded letter to the White Star Line about all this.” (Jack)
“Don’t you do that…don’t you say your goodbyes. Not yet, do you understand me? You’re gonna get out of here, you’re gonna go on, and you’re gonna make lots of babies, and you’re gonna watch them grow. You’re gonna die an old… an old woman warm in her bed, not here, not this night. Not like this, do you understand me? Winning that ticket, Rose, was the best thing that ever happened to me. It brought me to you, and I’m thankful for that, Rose. I’m thankful. You must do me this honor. You must promise me that you’ll survive, that you won’t give up, no matter what happens, no matter how hopeless. Promise me now, Rose, and never let go of that promise.” (Jack)
78 Jenny Curran (Forrest Gump)
A lot of subtext can be read into Forrest Gump. Some believe that Jenny…the lifelong friend of the film’s simpleminded hero who was abused as a young girl, becomes a hippie, descends into a life of drugs & prostitution, and ends up dying of (we assume) a sexually transmitted disease…is meant to represent the counterculture & upheaval of the 1960’s that many consider the loss of America’s innocence. She is the darkness in contrast to Forrest’s patriotic optimism. I’m not sure any of that symbolism was purposeful by the filmmakers, but the movie & the character stand on their own merits regardless of intent. Actress Robin Wright has had a solid career in Hollywood, from soap opera Santa Barbara in the mid-80’s to The Princess Bride in 1987 to the recently concluded Netflix hit House of Cards, but the sadness & vulnerability that defines Jenny has been her crowning achievement.
“Dear God, make me a bird. So I could fly far. Far far away from here.”
“Listen, you promise me something, okay? Just if you’re ever in trouble, don’t be brave. You just run, okay? Just run away.”
77 Inspector Harry Callahan (Dirty Harry)
Clint Eastwood’s career has spanned over a half century, and he’s done everything from westerns to critically acclaimed dramas to the television show Rawhide. He’s even become an Academy Award winning director. However, Eastwood will always be most closely associated with his portrayal of Harry Callahan, a tough as nails San Francisco cop who plays by his own set of rules.
“I know what you’re thinking: ‘Did he fire six shots or only five?’ Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do you, punk?”
76 Euphagenia Doubtfire (Mrs. Doubtfire)
The titular character in this film is actually a man in drag. Daniel Hillard is an itinerant voice actor whose uptight wife divorces him and gets custody of their three children. Instead of allowing their father to spend more time with them the career driven mother decides to hire a nanny, so Daniel dons a very convincing disguise and becomes an elderly British woman. The ruse works, and Mrs. Doubtfire allows Robin Williams’ comedic genius to shine.
“Oh, sir! I saw it! Some angry member of the kitchen staff. Did you not tip them? Oh, the terrorists – they ran that way. It was a run-by fruiting.”
“I’m a hip old granny who can hip-hop, be-bop, dance ’til you drop, and yo, yo, make a wicked cup of cocoa.”
“Oh. Carpe dentum. Seize the teeth. Just shake them off, like a dog.”
“I found the best way to keep from smoking again and lighting up is to be around those who do smoke. I have to randomly ingest just a little bit of nicotine and it steels my wool.”
“He was quite fond of the drink. It was the drink that killed him. He was hit by a Guinness truck. So it was quite literally the drink that killed him.”
75 Woody Pride & Buzz Lightyear (The Toy Story Series)
The older I get the more I appreciate animated movies, especially since the technology has really advanced in the past couple of decades. It doesn’t hurt that Toy Story is a great example of a film that can be enjoyed by kids but is well written enough for adults to be entertained as well. Buzz Lightyear is a boisterous Space Ranger who doesn’t understand that he’s a toy. He is the newest action figure for young Andy, a birthday present from his mother. Buzz initially has a difficult time fitting in with the rest of Andy’s toys, especially Sheriff Woody, who is envious that he’s been replaced as Andy’s favorite plaything. Woody is the unofficial leader amongst all of Andy’s toys and feels threatened by Buzz at first, although the two eventually become pals.
“To infinity and beyond!” (Buzz)
“I can’t stop Andy from growing up… but I wouldn’t miss it for the world.” (Woody)
74 Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)
You killed his father…prepare to die!! Inigo Montoya is a Spanish swordsman on a mission. As a child he witnessed six fingered Count Rugen murder his father and has spent his life seeking vengeance. Initially he works with malevolent Vizzini to kidnap the lovely Buttercup, but eventually he becomes a good guy, teaming up with The Man in Black & giant Fezzik to rescue Buttercup. He also comes face to face with Rugen and finally gets his revenge.
“He was a great swordmaker, my father. When the six-fingered man appeared and requested a special sword, my father took the job. He slaved a year before it was finished. The six-fingered man returned and demanded it, but at 1/10th his promised price. My father refused. Without a word, the six-fingered man slashed him through the heart. I loved my father. So naturally, I challenged his murderer to a duel. I failed. I was 11 years old. When I was strong enough, I dedicated my life to the study of fencing. So, the next time we meet, I will not fail. I will go up to the six-fingered man and say, ‘Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.’”
73 Lt. Dan Taylor (Forrest Gump)
I was born with a birth defect and have been disabled my entire life, so the way I do things & live my life is entirely normal to me. However, I have known people who became disabled later in life thru some sort of calamity, and it isn’t uncommon for such folks to become understandably bitter & angry about their situation. Lt. Dan captures those emotions perfectly. He’s kind of a prick, but one can’t help but have empathy and root for him. Gary Sinise might be the most underrated actor of his generation, and it’s a shame that he didn’t win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Lt. Dan.
“Now, you listen to me. We all have a destiny. Things don’t just happen…it’s all part of a plan.”
“There are two standing rules in this outfit. One, take care of your feet. Two, don’t go doing something stupid, like getting yourself killed.”
“You call this a storm?!?!?? Blow, you son of a bitch! It’s time for a showdown! You and me! I’m right here! Come and get me! You’ll never… sink… this…boat!!!!”
72 Edward Scissorhands (Edward Scissorhands)
I can’t say I’m on the Tim Burton bandwagon (I have zero interest in Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, or Sweeney Todd, Dark Shadows didn’t really work for me, and I’m thoroughly confused by The Nightmare Before Christmas), but I have enjoyed some of his work (the Batman films of the late 80’s/early 90’s are much more entertaining than Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy no matter what anyone says, and Beetlejuice is a modern classic), with Edward Scissorhands chief among them. Edward is the Pinocchio-esque creation of an elderly inventor whose kind & quiet demeanor is offset by the scary looking blades he has instead of hands. The inventor dies and Edward lives for years in an old gothic mansion until a nosy Avon lady stumbles upon him and tries to integrate him into her odd little neighborhood. There Edward falls in love with the lovely young Kim, which makes her boyfriend jealous. Drama & violence ensue, with Edward fleeing back to his mansion. The movie has a framing device with an older version of Kim telling her granddaughter the story and saying that she believes Edward is still alive & living in the old mansion. Johnny Depp seems like kind of a weird dude, but credit where it is due…the guy is a terrific actor and Edward Scissorhands is probably his best performance. Edward is a quiet character who expresses so much with his eyes & facial expressions, which I find captivating.
“Mrs. Monroe showed me where the salon’s going to be. You could have a cosmetics counter. And then she showed me the back room where she took all of her clothes off.”
71 Mickey Goldmill (The Rocky Series)
Burgess Meredith had a long & successful career in Hollywood, doing a little bit of everything from portraying The Penguin in the 1960’s Batman TV show to playing Lenny in one of the best film adaptations of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice & Men, but to those of us of a certain age he’ll always be Rocky Balboa’s grizzled old manager in the first three Rocky films. Mickey sees Balboa’s potential and isn’t afraid to speak his mind. Mickey encourages Rocky in his pursuit of heavyweight champion Apollo Creed, and does his best a few years later to steer the champ away from the menacing Clubber Lang. Of course Rocky is mauled by Lang, but Mickey’s death immediately afterward spurs his path to revenge.
“I’m here to warn ya, that ya gotta be very careful about this shot that you got at the title. Because, like the Bible says, you ain’t gonna get a second chance. What ya need is a manager. I know, because I’ve been in this racket for fifty years. I’ve seen it all, all of it. I’ve got 21 stitches over this left eye. I’ve got 34 stitches over this eye. Do ya know that I had my nose busted 17 times. I got all this knowledge, I got it up here now, I wanna give it to you. I wanna take care of ya. I wanna make sure that all this shit that happened to me doesn’t happen to you. Ya can’t buy what I’m gonna give ya. I’ve got pain and I’ve got experience.”
“You’re gonna eat lightnin’ and you’re gonna crap thunder.”
“You got another shot. It’s a second shot at the, I don’t know, the biggest title in the world. And you’re gonna be swappin’ punches with the most dangerous fighter in the world. And just in case, you know, your brain ain’t workin’ so good, all this happens pretty soon and you ain’t ready. You’re nowhere near in any shape. So I say, you know, for God’s sake, why don’t you stand up and fight this guy hard?! Like ya done before? That was beautiful! But don’t lay down in front of him like this! Like, I don’t know, like some kind of mongrel or something. ‘Cause he’s gonna kick your face in pieces, you know that? That’s right. This guy just don’t wanna win, you know. He wants to bury ya, he wants to humiliate ya. He wants to prove to the whole world that you was nothing but some kind of a freak the first time out. And he said you’re a one-time lucky bum. Well, now, I don’t, I don’t wanna get mad, in a biblical place like this, but I think you’re a hell of a lot more than that, kid.”
“Why don’t you carry this? ‘Cause I liked you a lot better when you was carryin’ spit. ‘Cause the way you’re trainin’, you’re gonna end up pumping gas in Jersey somewhere!”
“You can’t win, Rock! This guy’ll kill ya to death inside of 3 rounds! He ain’t just another fighter. This guy is a wreckin’ machine, and he’s hungry! Hell, you ain’t been hungry since you won that belt! Three years ago, you were supernatural. You was hard and nasty. You had this cast iron jaw. But then, the worst thing happened to you that could happen to any fighter. You got civilized. Don’t worry, kid. You know, presidents retire, generals retire, horses retire, Man o War retired. They put him out to stud. That’s what you should’ve done, retire.”
70 Ace Ventura (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective)
Jim Carrey has gone on to become a fairly well-regarded actor who takes himself, his craft, and life in general way too seriously. However, 25 years ago he was an up & comer known for portraying Fire Marshal Bill on the TV sketch comedy show In Living Color. Critics hated Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, but its 47% score on Rotten Tomatoes was trumped by a $72 million box office, making it the 12th highest grossing film of 1994 and earning a sequel just a year later. The sequel was an even bigger financial success but also more panned critically. Ace is a unique & unforgettable character because really, who would even conceive of “pet detective” being a thing?
“Einhorn is Finkle. Finkle is Einhorn! Einhorn is a MAN!”
“Fiction can be fun! But I find the reference section much more enlightening. For instance, if you were to look up professional football’s all-time bonehead plays you might read about a Miami Dolphin kicker named Ray Finkle, who missed a 26-yard field goal in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XVII. What you WOULDN’T read about is how Ray Finkle lost his mind, was committed to a mental hospital, only to escape and join the police force under the assumed identity of a missing hiker, manipulating his way to the top in a diabolical scheme to get even with Dan Marino whom he blamed for the entire thing!”
69 Rhett Butler & Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind)
The on again/off again relationship between Rhett & Scarlett reminds me of every “will they or won’t they” antagonistic & tortured “romance” we’ve seen play out on TV in my lifetime. In the real world such relationships are toxic, but within the scope of entertainment we find the tension & chemistry charming. Rhett Butler is a wealthy scoundrel who eventually enlists in the Confederate Army. Scarlett O’Hara is an entitled debutante, the self-centered daughter of a plantation owner. She spends most of the film pining for southern gentleman Ashley Wilkes, but he’s married to her cousin. Rhett is immediately smitten with Scarlett, but thru the years she marries two other men for all the wrong reasons, and both husbands end up dead. Scarlett goes through a lot of stuff over the course of the story, proving herself to be as resilient & tough as she is spoiled. Eventually Rhett & Scarlett marry & have a child, but she STILL can’t get over Ashley Wilkes. Rhett becomes fed up with her shenanigans and bolts, just as she finally figures out that he’s the man she truly needs. Vivien Leigh won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Scarlett, beating out the likes of Greta Garbo & Bette Davis in the process. Clark Gable wasn’t the original choice to portray Rhett…Gary Cooper turned down the part. Gable was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Robert Donat for his role in Goodbye, Mr. Chipps.
“I’m very drunk and I intend on getting still drunker before this evening is over.” (Rhett)
“As God is my witness they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and when it’s all over, I’ll never be hungry again. No, nor any of my folk. If I have to lie, steal, cheat, or kill. As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again! (Scarlett)
“The war stopped being a joke when a girl like you doesn’t know how to wear the latest fashion.” (Rhett)
“Tara! Home. I’ll go home. And I’ll think of some way to get him back. After all… tomorrow… is another day!” (Scarlett)
“Open your eyes and look at me. No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how.” (Rhett)
“I’m the only man over 16 and under 60 who’s around to show you a good time.” (Rhett)
“There’s one thing I do know, and that is that I love you Scarlett. In spite of you and me and the whole silly world going to pieces around us, I love you. Because we’re alike. Bad lots, both of us. Selfish & shrewd, but able to look things in the eyes as we call them by their right names.” (Rhett)
“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” (Rhett)
68 Robin Hood (various films)
Sir Robin of Loxley first appeared in English folk ballads in the 15th century and has popped in & out of our collective pop culture consciousness for over 500 years. An outlaw who steals from the rich & gives to the poor, lives in Sherwood Forest with his band of Merry Men (Friar Tuck, Little John, Will Scarlet, et al), battles the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham, & romances the lovely Maid Marian, Robin Hood has starred in about three dozen movies in the past hundred years. It is likely that he’d be a bit higher in our countdown if more of those films had been…noteworthy. Hollywood keeps trying, but despite their best efforts the only Robin Hood movie that has made much of an impact is 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, a classic starring Errol Flynn.
“We Saxons have little to fatten on by the time your tax gatherers are through. Overtaxed, overworked, and paid off with a knife, a club, or a rope.”
“It’s time to put an end to this! Now, this forest is wide. It can shelter and clothe and feed a band of good, determined men – good swordsmen, good archers, good fighters. Men, if you’re willing to fight for our people, I want you! Are you with me?”
“What else do you call a man who takes advantage of the King’s misfortune to seize his power? Now, with the help of this sweet band of cutthroats, you’ll try to grind a ransom for him out of every helpless Saxon, a ransom that will be used, not to release Richard, but to buy your way to the throne. I’ll organize a revolt, exact a death for a death, and I’ll never rest until every Saxon in this shire can stand up free men, and strike a blow for Richard and England.”
67 Clark Griswold (The Vacation Series)
Five years ago The Manofesto ranked Clark Griswold 4th on our list of Superfluous 7 Most Awesome Fictional Dads, opining that despite being kind of a dufus it is obvious that he is a devoted family man. Chevy Chase has portrayed Clark in five films stretching all the way back to the original National Lampoon’s Vacation in 1983. He’s an interesting character in that his occupation as an R&D expert in food additives & preservatives seems to indicate some level of intelligence, yet he is depicted as an ordinary putz in his personal life. Chase’s gift for physical comedy as well as how others play off him…with sort of an eye-rolling tolerance for his buffoonery…endears Clark to the audience, making us glad when everything turns out fine despite his persistent screw-ups.
“This is no longer a vacation…it’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun! I’m gonna have fun and you’re gonna have fun! We’re all gonna have so much fuckin’ fun we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah out of your assholes!!! HAHAHA!!! I gotta be crazy; I’m on a pilgrimage to see a moose! Praise Marty Moose! Holy shit!!!”
“Hey, look kids…there’s Big Ben and there’s Parliament.”
“Honey, we’re not normal people. We’re the Griswolds!”
66 John Doe (Se7en) & Keyser Soze (The Usual Suspects)
Oscar winning actor Kevin Spacey may be persona non grata in Hollywood these days, but until he ran into the #MeToo Mafia his career had been full of memorable roles. To be honest Se7en & The Usual Suspects aren’t really my kind of films, but both offer unforgettable villains made even better by the presence of Spacey inhabiting the characters. Se7en tells the story of a serial killer who uses The Seven Deadly Sins as a theme in his murders. John Doe forces a man to eat until his stomach ruptures (gluttony), kills a lawyer by literally taking a pound of flesh from him (greed), starves a drug dealer/child molester almost to death (sloth), forces a man at gunpoint to kill a prostitute by raping her with a bladed “toy” (lust), & mutilates the face of a model (pride). For those who haven’t seen the movie I won’t spoil the final two crimes representing envy & wrath. The Usual Suspects finds the LAPD interrogating cerebral palsy-afflicted con man Verbal Kint after he survives a massacre on a ship. Kint weaves a tale about a crime lord named Keyser Soze, but in possibly one of the best endings to a movie ever it is revealed (major spoiler alert) that Verbal Kint IS Keyser Soze. Spacey won his first Academy Award (Best Supporting Actor) for his role in The Usual Suspects.
“The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” (Keyser Soze)
“Don’t ask me to pity those people. I don’t mourn them any more than I do the thousands that died at Sodom & Gomorrah.” (John Doe)
65 Dr. Frederick Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein)
First of all, it is pronounced “Fronk-en-steen”. That is just one small way in which Frederick has intentionally distanced himself from his grandfather’s twisted legacy. However, upon inheriting the family castle in Transylvania Frederick finds himself at a crossroads, and I think we all know the hilarious path he chooses. I’m a fan of parody films, and the way director Mel Brooks spoofs the classic story is funny in a way that I fear may be lost on modern youngsters. Gene Wilder not only stars as Frederick but he also co-wrote the screenplay with Brooks. The cast…Madeline Kahn, Marty Feldman, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Gene Hackman…is first rate, even if no one under 45 these days might appreciate that fact. I have a bad feeling that someday somebody is going to get the bright idea to remake Young Frankenstein, and that would be…at the very least…misguided.
“From that fateful day when stinking bits of slime first crawled from the sea and shouted to the cold stars, ‘I am man!’ our greatest dread has always been the knowledge of our mortality. But tonight, we shall hurl the gauntlet of science into the frightful face of death itself. Tonight, we shall ascend into the heavens. We shall mock the earthquake. We shall command the thunders, and penetrate into the very womb of impervious nature herself.”
“My grandfather’s work was doodoo! I am not interested in death! The only thing that concerns me is the preservation of life!”
“Are you saying that I put an abnormal brain into a 7 and a half foot long, 54- inch wide GORILLA?!?!?! IS THAT WHAT YOU’RE TELLING ME!?!”
63 Carl Spackler (Caddyshack)
One would assume that being an assistant greenskeeper at swanky Bushwood Country Club would allow even a middle class guy like Carl a decent lifestyle. Alas, he lives in small hut on the golf course, with his job & the game of golf itself consuming his life. He dreams of one day winning The Masters, and in his spare time breeds grass hybrids that one can “play 36 holes on in the afternoon” then “get stoned to the bejeezus” on it at night. He becomes obsessed with ridding the golf course of a rabblerousing gopher, going so far as to utilize explosives and blow up the very course he is employed to look after.
“What an incredible Cinderella story! This unknown, comes out of nowhere, to lead the pack at Augusta. The crowd is just on its feet here. He’s a Cinderella boy. Tears in his eyes, I guess, as he lines up this last shot. He’s got about 195 yards left, and he’s got a, looks like he’s got about an 8-iron. This crowd has gone deadly silent… Cinderella story, out of nowhere, former greenskeeper, now about to become the Masters champion. It’s in the hole! It’s in the hole!”
“My enemy…my foe…is an animal. In order to conquer the animal I have to learn to think like an animal. And, whenever possible, to look like one. I’ve gotta get inside this guy’s pelt and crawl around for a few days.”
“And he says, ‘Oh, uh, there won’t be any money, but when you die, on your deathbed, you will receive total consciousness.’ So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.”
64 Hermione Granger (The Harry Potter Series)
Author JK Rowling describes Hermione as having “pale skin, bushy brown hair, brown eyes, & large buck teeth”. In the films she is much lovelier than the impression one gets from the books, but her personality remains unchanged: intelligent, sensible, strong-willed, loyal, & just a tad bit officious. She’s the kind of person that’s nice to have in your corner, and one that presents fierce opposition. She’s tough as nails and not afraid to stand side by side with the boys or go toe to toe with the baddies, yet she retains an element of vulnerable femininity & kindness. I suppose for a certain age of young ladies Hermione could be called a feminist icon.
“Honestly, am I the only person who’s ever bothered to read Hogwarts: A History?”
“Now if you two don’t mind, I’m going to bed. Before you come up with another idea to get us killed. Or worse, expelled.”
“I’m highly logical which allows me to look past extraneous detail and perceive clearly that which others overlook.”
“Just because you have the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have!”
“No Harry, you listen…we’re coming with you. That was decided months ago…years, really.”
62 Austin Powers & Dr. Evil (The Austin Powers Series)
I may not be a James Bond fan, but I really enjoyed the Austin Powers movies, which are essentially a Bond parody. Powers is a 60’s era swinger & British spy whose arch nemesis is Dr. Evil. When Dr. Evil becomes cryogenically frozen Powers does the same so that he’ll be available to stop Evil in the future. That future is three decades later, when both Powers & Evil are thawed out and continue their battle. Dr. Evil intends to steal nuclear weapons & hold the world hostage for “$100 BILLION!!”. It’s all very silly, with double entendres, sight gags, & the kind of goofy humor that tickles my funny bone. Mike Meyers created the story as a tribute to his British parents and plays both characters. Meyers was a couple of years removed from his time at SNL and hadn’t had much success outside of the two Wayne’s World films, but cemented his stardom with the dual roles. Rumors of a fourth Powers movie have persisted since the third one hit theaters 17 years ago, but so far it hasn’t happened.
“I bet she shags like a minx.” (Austin Powers)
“Fire the laser!” (Dr. Evil)
“The 70s and the 80s? You’re not missing anything! I looked into it. There’s a gas shortage and A Flock of Seagulls. That’s about it.” (Austin Powers)
“Why must I be surrounded by frickin’ idiots?” (Dr. Evil)
“Oh, behave!” (Austin Powers)
“Throw me a frickin’ bone here!” (Dr. Evil)
“Groovy, baby!” (Austin Powers)
“I have a better idea. I’m going to place him in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death.” (Dr. Evil)
“SILENCE!! I will not tolerate your insolence!” (Dr. Evil)
“Ladies & gentlemen, welcome to my new submarine lair. It’s long and hard and full of seamen.” (Dr. Evil)
61 John Bender (The Breakfast Club)
There are five high schoolers in trouble & spending their Saturday in detention at Shurmur High School in suburban Chicago on March 24, 1984: Claire Standish (The Princess), Andrew Clark (The Athlete), Brian Johnson (The Brain), Allison Reynolds (The Basket Case), & John Bender (The Criminal). Of that group it is Bender that shines just a little brighter. The idea behind these characters is that they represent typical high school stereotypes, and it’s the main reason the film holds up nearly four decades later…those labels are universal and don’t change all that much. Every high school has rebels like Bender, the kind of badass who thumbs their nose at authority, doesn’t care all that much about academics, & seemingly has a limited future. However, the great thing about The Breakfast Club is that it explores those archetypes & exposes their folly. It’s a movie that one perceives differently thru the prism of adulthood, and as a grown man I am struck by the not-so-subtle suggestion that Bender has been physically, mentally, & emotionally abused at home. There is a scene in which blowhard Principal Vernon gets in Bender’s face, and contrary to the bluster that he exhibits in the presence of his peers, the tough as nails bully cowers like a scared child. It is a stark reminder that not everything is always as it seems – sometimes people put on masks to hide their pain.
“Screws fall out all the time; the world is an imperfect place.”
“Does Barry Manilow know you raid his wardrobe?”
“I could see you really pushing maximum density. You see, I’m not sure if you know this, but there are two kinds of fat people. There’s fat people that were born to be fat, and there’s fat people that were once thin, but they became fat, so when you look at them you can sort of see that thin person inside. You see, you’re gonna get married, you’re gonna squeeze out a few puppies and then….”
“Eat my shorts.”
“”Face it…you’re a neo-maxi-zoom-dweebie.”
60 Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice)
Horror comedies are a rare treat, but they are the kind of Halloween-ish fare I prefer instead of straight up slasher flicks. Michael Keaton is an undervalued gem of an actor, capable of adding zest to comedies, dramas, big budget superhero films, biopics, or whatever else he does. When a young couple dies in a car accident but still finds themselves residing in their suburban Connecticut home they employ the services of a centuries old “freelance bio-exorcist” to get rid of the new owners of the house. That freelancer is a fast-talking, mischievous, & crude trickster who is essentially a “Livingbuster” (as opposed to a Ghostbuster)…a ghost who exterminates the living by scaring them away. The name Betelgeuse (the proper spelling) refers to a star in the Orion constellation that is the ninth brightest star in the night sky. Rumors of a Beetlejuice sequel have been circulating for years, but the project seems to have hit a wall.
“I’m the ghost with the most, babe.”
59 Sonny Corleone (The Godfather Trilogy)
Hands down Sonny has the greatest death scene in movie history. The eldest son of Don Vito Corleone, hothead Santino takes over as temporary boss of The Family after his father is shot by goons working for narcotics kingpin Turk Sollozzo. Under Sonny’s leadership the Five Families engage in a Mafia war after Sonny’s younger brother Michael kills Sollozzo & a corrupt cop, forcing the entire Corleone organization to “go to the mattresses”. After his brother-in-law Carlo physically abuses his wife Connie, Sonny defends his sister’s honor by beating the holy hell out of Carlo, which leads to rival boss Emilio Barzini setting a trap using Carlo to bait Sonny into making a reckless mistake. He is brought down in a hail of gunfire at a toll booth. Sonny’s sexual prowess and physical…gifts…are elaborated on much more in the book than the movie, but his affair with one of Connie’s bridesmaids at the beginning of the first film is important because his illegitimate son Vincent Mancini becomes Don of the Corleone Family in the much maligned & underappreciated Part III.
“Hey, whatcha gonna do, nice college boy, eh? Didn’t want to get mixed up in the family business, huh? Now you wanna gun down a police captain ’cause he slapped ya in the face? Hah? What do you think this is? The Army, where you shoot ’em a mile away? You’ve gotta get up close like this and bada-bing, you blow their brains all over your nice Ivy League suit!”
58 Godzilla (various films)
Godzilla (which in Japanese translates into gorilla whale) is a 300-400 ft. reptilian creature weighing several hundred thousand tons who lives in the sea and is awakened as a result of nuclear radiation. He has been the star of about three dozen films dating back to the 1950’s, and the earliest movies are still the best, mostly because of the kitschiness factor of the archaic special effects & amusingly poor dubbing of English over the original Japanese. Big scary monsters are nothing new in Hollywood, but most of them come & go rather quickly. Maybe they get a couple of sequels but that’s usually it. Godzilla has stood the test of time, and we can still count on a new movie in the series popping up somewhere every few years for our viewing pleasure.
57 Bo “Bandit” Darville (Smokey & The Bandit)
At one point in my childhood Burt Reynolds was the biggest movie star in the world, and though he’d previously done well-regarded films like Deliverance & The Longest Yard my earliest memory of him is Smokey & The Bandit. I was five years old and didn’t really get all the humor, but there were car chases & crashes so that was enough to attract my attention. In the ensuing four decades I have watched this movie countless times, and though the entire cast is terrific it is The Bandit that holds it all together. He’s a trucker who’s between jobs, and that guy that knows everyone and is loved by everybody because of his charm & good looks. He’s cocky but not arrogant, confident enough in his skills to agree to a bet wherein he’ll bring 400 cases of Coors beer to Atlanta from Texarkana, TX in just 28 hours. The premise might not make much sense to folks in 21st century America because one first must understand that in the 1970’s Coors was unavailable east of Oklahoma (it didn’t become distributed nationally until 1986), and because it was made without stabilizers & preservatives could spoil quicker than other beers. Bootlegging was the illegal transport of alcoholic beverages due to violation of registration & licensing laws. I have no idea what the penalty was, but I assume the $80k Bandit is offer by Big Enos Burdette is worth the risk. At any rate, his antics are so much fun that it makes an otherwise odd & now outdated idea still entertaining after all these years.
“Oh I love your suits. It must have been a bitch to get a 68 Extra Fat and a 12 Dwarf.”
“You’re always hoppin around. And you’re kinda cute, like a frog. And I’d like to jump ya.”
“He was taking a 10-100.”
“Cowboys love fat calves.”
“What’s a Texas county mounty doing in Arkansas?”
56 Moses (The Ten Commandments)
Hollywood’s history with Biblical epics is spotty at best, but they did it right with The Ten Commandments. It’s got to be a tough gig portraying a character from The Bible, right?? They are real people who actually walked the Earth, but it was so long ago that there aren’t photos or video to lay the foundation for an accurate depiction. With the exception of events that are written about in God’s Word there isn’t much to base a character on, yet millions of people whose faith is deeply important to them have high expectations. By 1956 director Cecil B. DeMille had helmed dozens of movies, many of them in the silent era in the first two decades of the 20th century. His epic circus drama The Greatest Show on Earth had won the Academy Award for Best Picture a few years earlier. Charlton Heston wasn’t DeMille’s first choice to play Moses, but the two had worked together on The Greatest Show on Earth and Heston’s knowledge of Egyptian history captivated the director, who thought the actor resembled Michelangelo’s 16th century statue of Moses in the church of San Pietro in Rome. William Boyd, who had portrayed Hopalong Cassidy in over five dozen cowboy movies in the 1930’s & 40’s, turned down the part, so Heston was chosen. He’d acted in over a dozen previous films, but it was The Ten Commandments that made him a star.
“A city is made of brick, Pharaoh. The strong make many. The weak make few. The dead make none. So much for accusations.”
“It would take more than a man to lead the slaves from bondage. It would take a god, and I am no god. I am but a man, a man who asks by what right any man may enslave another of a different race or creed. But if I could free these people, I would.”
“Who shall withstand the power of God?!?!??”
55 Buck Russell (Uncle Buck)
It’s the role that John Candy was born to play: a slovenly black sheep uncle called on to babysit his nieces & nephew in the midst of a family emergency. Buck is a middle-aged unemployed bachelor who smokes cigars, drinks beer, drives a noisy old gas guzzler that’s seen better days, & spends a lot of time at the track betting on horses…not exactly the ideal caretaker for children. The two younger kids take an immediate liking to Buck, but he has a much more difficult time winning over his teenage niece. Those interactions between an uncle clearly out of his element and the children are the crux of the film, and Candy infuses Buck with a mix of humor, common sense, tough love, amiable befuddlement, & roguish charm that endears him to the audience.
“I’m on to cigars now. I’m on to a five year plan. I eliminated cigarettes, then I go to cigars, then I go to pipes, then I go to chewing tobacco, then I’m on to that nicotine gum.”
“What’s your record for consecutive questions asked?”
“I don’t think I want to know a 6 year old who isn’t a dreamer or a sillyheart, and I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously. I don’t have a college degree. I don’t even have a job. But I know a good kid when I see one. Because they’re all good kids until dried-out, brain-dead skags like you drag them down and convince them they’re no good. You so much as scowl at my niece or any other kid in this school and I hear about it, I’m coming looking for you! Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face! Good day to you, madam.
“Stand me up today and tomorrow I’ll drive you to school in my robe and pajamas and walk you to your first class.”
“Ever hear of a ritual killing? You gnaw on her face in public like that again and you’ll be one.”
“I have a friend who works at the crime lab at the police station. I could give him your toothbrush and he could run a test on it to see if you actually brushed your teeth or just ran your toothbrush under the faucet.”
54 R2D2 & C3P0 (The Star Wars series)
The Star Wars galaxy created by George Lucas offers a multitude of memorable characters. We’ll get to some others eventually, but we begin with a pair of futuristic droids that offer delightful levity amongst all the action & intrigue. There are eleven films in the series…the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, the soon to be concluded sequel trilogy, Rogue One, & Solo. R2D2 & C3P0 have appeared in ten of these, which is by far more than any other character. R2D2 purportedly stands for Second Generation Robotic Droid Series-2, but the truth is that when Lucas heard his sound editor on American Graffiti ask for Reel 2, Dialog Track 2 in abbreviated form he liked the sound of it. R2D2 is a utility robot used for the maintenance & repair of starships and related technology. In the films he first belongs to Naboo defense forces charged with repairing Queen Padme Amidala’s ship. Thru the years he is owned by Qui-Gon Jinn, Anakin Skywalker, Owen Lars, Luke Skywalker, & Rey. R2’s distinctive shape and various beeps & unique noises are signature elements of the character. C3P0 is a little more humanlike than his buddy, having legs & feet and the ability to speak. He is a protocol droid intended to assist in etiquette, customs, & translation and is fluent in over seven million forms of communication. Thru the years he has served Shmi Skywalker, the Lars family, Padmé Amidala, Raymus Antilles, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, & Rey. His distinctive gold plating makes him easy to spot in a crowd, and his fussy, worrisome personality is rather comical. I’m sure back in the 70’s many people thought that by the 21st century robot assistants like R2D2 & C3P0 would be commonplace, but we’re not quite there yet.
“For a mechanic, you seem to do an incessant amount of thinking.” (C3P0)
“Don’t blame me. I’m an interpreter. I’m not supposed to know a power socket from a computer terminal.” (C3P0)
“R2, you know better than to trust a strange computer.” (C3P0)
“It’s against my programming to impersonate a deity.” (C3P0)
53 Billy Madison & Happy Gilmore (eponymous films)
Adam Sandler’s career has been a mixed bag. He is undoubtedly talented & funny, but his shtick isn’t everybody’s cup of tea and he’s made a lot of bad movies. In my opinion his funniest films were in the early 90’s, though you won’t find many critics who would agree. I take no issue with solicitous, meaningful films with life lessons, powerful messages, & profound themes, but sometimes we just want to turn off our brain for awhile and laugh at something completely stupid & pointless and Sandler has done a decent job of providing that sort of entertainment. Billy Madison is a rather juvenile 20-something in a clear state of arrested development. When his hotel tycoon father plans to retire he’d prefer Billy take over the business but knows he isn’t capable, especially since the old man bribed teachers to pass Billy all the way thru school. At any rate, Billy accepts a challenge to complete 12 grades of school in two weeks, which is somehow supposed to magically make him qualified to helm a Fortune 500 company. I know…it makes very little sense, but the journey is lots of silly fun, which is the whole point. Happy Gilmore is a failed hockey player wannabe who must figure out a way to help his grandmother buy back her house that the IRS took for back taxes she owes. He inexplicably ends up on the PGA Tour and (spoiler alert) wins enough money as a champion golfer to help out his grandmother. Once again…don’t put too much thought into it. The plots of these movies aren’t meant to be logical and the characters aren’t supposed to be realistic, but Sandler infuses both Billy & Happy with enough affable charm that we root for their success and want them to overcome the odds despite the fact that they are total idiots.
“Oh, Veronica Vaughn … soooo hot … want to touch the hiney!” (Billy)
“The Price is wrong, bitch!” (Happy)
“You ain’t cool, unless, you pee your pants! Everybody my age pee their pants; it’s the coolest!” (Billy)
52 Ellis “Red” Redding (The Shawshank Redemption)
Many folks may not realize that The Shawshank Redemption is based on a 1982 Stephen King novella. In that book Red Redding is described as a middle-aged Irish man with greying red hair, so casting Morgan Freeman in the role can only be described as an inspired choice. Red has been imprisoned at Shawshank for 40 years for murdering his wife & passengers in her vehicle after he tampered with the brakes. He has attained a level of influence for being able to smuggle a variety of goods into the jail for other inmates, though his attitude remains somewhat sullen. He is a practical man, resigned to his fate yet regretful of the crime he committed when he was young & stupid. Red befriends new inmate Andy Dufresne, and they end up changing each other’s lives tremendously. Freeman received his third Academy Award nomination for the role, but lost the Best Actor prize to Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump).
“In 1966, Andy Dufresne escaped from Shawshank prison. All they found of him was a muddy set of prison clothes, a bar of soap, and an old rock hammer, damn near worn down to the nub. I remember thinking it would take a 600 years to tunnel through the wall with it. Old Andy did it in less than 20. Andy crawled to freedom through 500 yards of shit-smelling foulness I can’t even imagine…or maybe I just don’t want to. 500 yards… that’s the length of five football fields; just shy of half a mile.”
“Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.”
“These prison walls are funny. First you hate ’em, then you get used to ’em. Enough time passes, gets so you depend on them. That’s institutionalized. They send you here for life, that’s exactly what they take. The part that counts anyways.”
“Rehabilitated? Well, now, let me see. You know, I don’t have any idea what that means. I know what you think it means, sonny. To me it’s just a made-up word. A politician’s word, so that young fellas like yourself can wear a suit and a tie and have a job. What do you really wanna know? Am I sorry for what I did? There’s not a day goes by that I don’t feel regret. Not because I’m in here, or because you think I should. I look back on the way I was then: a young, stupid kid who committed that terrible crime. I want to talk to him. I want to try to talk some sense to him, tell him the way things are. But I can’t. That kid’s long gone, and this old man is all that’s left. I gotta live with that. Rehabilitated? It’s just a bullshit word. So go ahead and stamp your forms, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.”
“I find I’m so excited I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it is the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
51 Laurie Strode (Halloween)
Screen legend Janet Leigh is the original Scream Queen for her small yet pivotal role in the 1960 Hitchcock classic Psycho, so it is fitting that her daughter Jamie Lee Curtis would assume the mantle after playing Lorrie Strode, an ordinary American teenager who endures a single night of terror at the hands of a knife-wielding masked maniac. Numerous sequels, remakes, & reboots have kept the Halloween franchise alive, but really the 1978 original & its initial 1981 sequel are the only two that matter.
Welcome back to the 2018 Sammy Awards as we continue our fond farewell to the past year. After some amusing observations from host Michael McIntyre it’s time to move forward with the show.
The Sammy Awards doesn’t shy away from controversy, and we tend to lean in a rebellious direction. So to present our next award please welcome two of the more successful actors in Hollywood. First, he’s a two time Academy Award winner and has come out as gay, although that may have possibly been a weak PR attempt to divert attention from “sexual misconduct” allegations (for which he was fired from his successful TV show House of Cards). Please give a pensive & slightly confused round of polite applause to Kevin Spacey!! Joining him is a young man who has starred in about a dozen lightly regarded & easily forgotten alleged comedies in the past few years. He was all set to host this year’s Academy Awards until politically incorrect jokes that he tweeted several years ago were suddenly discovered by ill-humored old curmudgeons who compelled him to quit. Give a warm welcome to Kevin Hart!! And the nominees are:
The Twitter Award for Most Interesting Water Cooler Topic
I love Tide Pods…to do my laundry. But in 2018 some folks had a different idea & decided they’d make a good snack. Stupid people are the best job security doctors will ever have.
She’s a stripper & a porn star, and apparently she got busy with Donald Trump many years before he ran for President. Those of us with critical thinking skills couldn’t possibly care less, but the media has made Ms. Daniels famous. No one is saying Trump is a saint, but that’s not really breaking news. Everyone knew about his shortcomings from Day 1, and the vast majority of folks outside of the heathen strongholds of New York, California, & Chicago decided he was still a better choice than Hillary Clinton. But kudos to Ms. Daniels for making the most of her 15 minutes.
I was never a fan of Barr or her eponymous 90’s sitcom. The reboot of that show didn’t interest me in the least, despite her “coming out” as a Trump supporter. The reboot did monster ratings, but ABC cancelled it in a fit of self-righteous rage after Barr tweeted a comparison between Obama disciple Valerie Jarrett and a character from the recent Planet of the Apes films. The tweet was deemed racist, even though it clearly wasn’t meant to be. Jarrett actually does look eerily similar to the movie character. At any rate, ABC quickly realized their mistake and gave the show new life, albeit without Barr. The Conners has struggled in the ratings and will likely be cancelled, meaning no one in this unnecessary melodrama wins.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate alleged Russian interference in the 2016 Presidential Election almost as soon as the results were announced. Nearly two years later a handful of indictments & a few convictions have occurred, but as far as the election goes it seems like the best he can come up with is that the Russians may have posted some anti-Clinton propaganda on social media. Oh the horror!! If that kind of thing is deemed “interference” then perhaps all campaign advertisements & TV commercials should be banned. The simple truth is that The Establishment hates Trump and has conducted a witch hunt to destroy him since the day he became a legitimate threat to their power, and the sad part is that someday their plot just might work.
Last summer people were legitimately stunned when restaurant chain IHOP announced they were changing their named to IHOB. Of course what many seemed to miss was that the restaurant was never actually going to change their name at all. It was simply a marketing campaign to promote a renovated lineup of burgers on their menu. About a month later the chain announced that they were “changing their name back” to IHOP, and still a lot of folks just didn’t get it.
Lineup changes & squabbles amongst bandmates are nothing new to music, so I suppose that it shouldn’t be a total shock that 70’s supergroup Fleetwood Mac recently tossed aside longtime guitarist Lindsey Buckingham after he’d been with the band for four decades. One would expect more mature behavior from 70 year olds.
I don’t know. It’s some sort of video game that the kids are into. I don’t care.
Cosby was nominated for this same award back in 2014, at which time it was stated that “nothing has been proven and it never will be because the things that allegedly occurred happened far enough in the past that statutes of limitations have all run out”. That was wrong, because in April 2018 he was convicted on three counts of aggravated indecent assault and sentenced to 3-10 years in prison. What a sad fate for the 81 year old comic legend.
Water On Mars
Back in the summer researchers discovered a lake about 12 miles wide under the south polar ice cap on Mars. Previous research found possible signs of intermittent liquid water flowing on the Martian surface, but this is the first sign of a persistent body of water on the planet in the present day.
John Schnatter, founder & CEO of the pizza giant, stepped down about a year ago after allegedly controversial comments made about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his poor handling of the infamous anthem protest. He then landed in hot water again last summer after using a racial slur in a conversation about the anthem protests. The truth?? Schnatter is a Republican & a Trump supporter, and the things he said wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if he wasn’t.
Yanny or Laurel??
Last May social media & other outlets were abuzz due to an audio recording in which a person heard a voice say either the word “Yanny” or the word “Laurel”. I heard “Laurel” clear as a bell, as did the majority of my friends & family, though there were exceptions. The whole thing is an auditory illusion, as both sounds are on the recording. Some people focus on the higher frequency & hear “Yanny”, while others zero in on the lower frequency of the word “Laurel”. At any rate, it was a frivolously fun bit of conversation for a day or two.
and The Sammy goes to…..
Roseanne Barr. Do I care that her show was cancelled? Not at all. Do I care about the fate of The Conners? Nope. However, I do believe it is sad how overly sensitive we’ve become in America. I think Barr should have been smarter, more aware of how tenuous her position was (given her “controversial” political opinions), & mindful of the fact that comedy has…unfortunately…been put under a politically correct microscope. I don’t consider what she tweeted to be the least bit offensive, and it actually has elements of truth, but one must understand how The Game is played in 21st century America. One must be ready to conform or suffer the consequences. Social media is a minefield, and the punishment can be swift & harsh…or even catch up to a person many years later. The rules are rather fluid.
To present our next award we are proud to introduce a young lad who became somewhat famous this past year after being discovered by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres. He is a YouTube sensation whose brutally honest videos critiquing odd recipes are absolutely hysterical. Jesus take the wheel…it’s Kalen Allen!! And the nominees are:
The DB Cooper Award (For the Person Who Most Needs to Disappear)
Is there a bigger douchenozzle in the media than CNN’s Don Lemon?? Since he’s black AND gay he is beloved by leftists everywhere, but what strikes me is just how angry & bitter he seems. The man is 52 years old, has a great TV gig, & the world is his oyster. What’s his freakin’ problem?? Remember the days when the folks reporting the news were atleast pretty good at hiding their bias?? Those days are gone, and Lemon is the poster child for everything wrong with his profession.
Full disclosure…I’ve never watched an episode of Bee’s TBS show Full Frontal. However, I watch enough reruns of The Big Bang Theory on that channel to have seen multiple ads for the show, and I just don’t get it. Okay okay…I understand political humor and the fact that Jon Stewart made such shows cool, and I can be as snarky as anyone. I have no issue with any of that, even if I disagree with the views being expressed. But humor…like great music & good food…requires a certain dexterity & finesse. Bee’s brand of bombastic sarcasm seems to be turned up to 11 all the time, and I can’t imagine sitting thru thirty minutes of that is enjoyable for anybody. It’s the same issue that has ruined late night talk shows. You want to go after President Trump?? Okay, that’s fair. But full throttle?? Every day?? At some point the beatdown becomes tedious and people want to laugh at different jokes.
Most former Presidents & First Ladies fade away into the sunset, shunning the limelight & letting their successors do their thing, whether or not they agree politically. Not these two. They seize every opportunity to soak in the adulation that people still inexplicably shower upon them, and never miss a chance to criticize & undermine the current Administration. It’s disgusting.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
I cannot believe that the people of New York actually voted this imbecile into Congress. Let’s face it…there are two political parties, and depending on one’s education, background, lifestyle, etc. there are going to be some politicians that we agree with & some we don’t…but generally we can all concede the fact that the folks representing us in cities & states nationwide as well as those populating Washington DC are reasonably intelligent people regardless of philosophical differences. I’m not sure that’s the case with this one. She’s the youngest person ever voted into the United States Congress and it shows. She seemingly has a very tenuous grasp on economic reality, common sense, & critical thinking, and appears to have the maturity level of the drunken sorority babes that I used to chat up in bars at 1am twenty-five years ago. I’m not familiar with Ms. Cortez’s district or the circumstances that led folks there to believe for a single solitary second that she was a reasonably good choice, but it is difficult to fathom that they could’ve have had worse options.
Not only did DeNiro stop making good movies over a decade ago, but now he fancies himself a political commentator & socioeconomic expert. The truth is that he’s just a foul-mouthed, washed up, angry has-been like so many of his Hollywood friends. Stay in your lane Bobby.
I don’t watch reality television, and that includes Trump’s old show The Apprentice. Apparently this woman was a controversial contestant on that program over a decade ago, and then she became a staffer on the Presidential campaign a few years back. After Trump won the election he hired her to be part of his staff at the White House, but she lasted less than a year before resigning or being forced out (depending on who you believe). Since her departure from The White House Omarosa has gone completely off the rails, publicly turning against her old boss, releasing tapes of private conversations, & writing a “tell-all” book that the President’s staff has said is basically a load of poppycock. I have always been amazed by how some reality TV “stars” are successful at remaining in the spotlight far longer than they deserve, and in this case President Trump has to share part of the blame for helping the woman retain a shred of relevance before she used his kindness against him for her own gain.
For a brief moment in 2018 there was actually a movement afoot to persuade Oprah to run for President in 2020. Please…give me a freakin’ break. She’d be ten times the nightmare Donald Trump has been at his very worst.
Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, & Jimmy Kimmel
I’m over the whole late night TV thing. Oh sure I get a bit nostalgic occasionally & miss the good ol’ days of Carson, Letterman, Leno, Snyder, Costas, & Ferguson. I might even tune into Fallon for 5 or 10 minutes once in awhile. But for the most part I have become quite comfortable spending time after the late local news reading a bit, watching a movie, playing a game on my phone, catching up on whatever I’ve DVRed, chillin’ with some tunes, or even going to sleep at a decent hour. And it’s all because of these guys. Sadly they are all young enough that they’ll probably be hosting their shows for another two or three decades, but it’d be nice if they’d all just disappear from television and be replaced by hosts who would return the format to its former glory and decide that being funny is more important than being a political hack.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
I wish no ill will toward Justice Ginsburg. I hope she lives until she’s 150. But the fact is that, at 85 years old, she no longer has the mental capacity to sit on The Supreme Court. A Supreme Court justice should be one of the sharpest individuals with one of the keenest minds on the planet, and there are very few people that age that meet such criteria, no matter how brilliant they once were. I am a strict constructionist when it comes to The Constitution, so I hesitate to advocate for a mandatory retirement age or term limits for The Court, but one would hope that Justice Ginsburg will do the right thing sooner rather than later, despite what she may think about the current President or feel about his power to replace her with someone with whom she might not agree.
and The Sammy goes to…..
All of Them. Y’all know the drill by now. These people just need to shut their pieholes. Go away. Get out. Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you where the Good Lord split you.
To present our next award we are honored to welcome a big screen legend who began his career on television and has the perfect voice for radio. He is an Academy Award winning actor who has starred in classics like The Shawshank Redemption, Deep Impact, Now You See Me, Christoper Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, & Bruce Almighty. Let’s raise the roof for Morgan Freeman!! And the nominees are:
Favorite TV/Radio Program
This Is Us
After winning this award in its first two seasons I feel like This Is Us has kind of slacked off in its third year. Now that the mystery of how & when patriarch Jack Pearson met his demise is in the rear view mirror some of the luster has worn off for me. It’s still a well-written & performed program, but I must admit that I lost interest a few episodes into Season 3 and still need to do a bit of catching up before the show returns from its “winter break” this month.
Pardon the Interruption
Tony & Mike continue to represent curmudgeons & cantankerous old fogeys everywhere in the glut of sports debate programming. One or both are absent with some frequency, but “Fill In” Frank Isola has become a decent substitute.
The Young & the Restless
I’m really going to be interested to see the direction Y&R heads in during 2019, because this past year was a bit of a roller coaster. Too many new characters, too many familiar characters absent without explanation, and plots that drag on far too long are some of the key issues the show faced in 2018, although it was still entertaining enough for me to DVR on a daily basis and catch up on late at night at a time when I used to be watching talk shows that were once funny.
WV MetroNews Hotline
Dave Weekley is back!! The original host of West Virginia’s late afternoon statewide radio show returned in 2018, and he hasn’t missed a beat. The program is still a potpourri of sports, news, current events, entertainment, & whatever else one might deem interesting. I need to make more of an effort to catch the podcast this year…it’s not like I have anything else better to do.
The only other show on ESPN besides PTI that is worthy of space on my DVR. Dan, Papi, & a rogue’s gallery of co-hosts offer intermittently biting, mostly irreverent, & always entertaining commentary on hot sports topics, and they throw in the occasional goofy video of random people doing something completely stupid. It’s a great formula with the right personalities.
I love my DVR, and one of the few shows that I record on a daily basis is GH. A big reason that I have been unable to pull the trigger on giving up my soap operas completely is because GH is still such a well-written & entertaining program with solid performances & compelling stories.
and The Sammy goes to…..
Highly Questionable. This might be considered somewhat of an upset, but amongst the competition HQ has become the most consistently entertaining program on a daily basis. I think what I like best is that it is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The problem with ESPN the past several years is that so many of its reporters & hosts want to make sports more important than it really is. I love sports. Football, baseball, basketball, golf, & all the rest of it has been an essential part of my life, but at the end of the day it’s a game…frivolous fun designed as a distraction from the rigors of real life. Dan, Papi, & their revolving door of itinerant co-hosts understand that. They are comfortable with their relatively low spot on the television totem pole and have fun with it rather than try to convince the masses that the next thirty minutes will be life changing. I respect that, and more importantly, I laugh almost every single day at a goofy video shown on HQ or the hosts’ reaction to it. Shouldn’t that be the goal of a good TV show??
This seems like the appropriate place to take another break. Please join us soon for the exciting conclusion of the 2018 Sammy Awards!!
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.
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.
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.
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?!?!??
As we wrap up Round 2 of 90’s Film Frenzy let me take this opportunity to hearken back to my childhood in the 70’s & 80’s and say a melancholy Happy Trails to legendary actor Burt Reynolds. For a brief time when I was about ten years old Reynolds was the biggest movie star in the world. At the time I was really into movies like Smokey & The Bandit, Hooper, The Cannonball Run, and The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Actually, I suppose I still prefer those kinds of films. Of course Reynolds had meatier roles in stuff like Deliverance and The Longest Yard, and in later years he had sporadic success with Boogie Nights and…well…that was pretty much it. The 21st century hadn’t been particularly kind to him. In the late 80’s he often appeared on a game show that he produced called Win, Lose, or Draw, and in the early 90’s he starred with Marilu Henner, Hal Holbrook, Michael Jeter, Charles Durning, & the sublime Ossie Davis in a delightful yet underrated sitcom called Evening Shade. Throughout the decades Burt Reynolds remained in the pop culture consciousness and made frequent appearances on various chat shows. Even the bad movies he was in…like Striptease and the big screen adaptation of The Dukes of Hazzard…gained some degree of credibility because he was part of the cast. Unlike so many of today’s movie stars Burt Reynolds seemed to simply embrace being a famous actor and didn’t fancy himself an activist or an arbiter of morality for the masses. Oh sure, he went thru a very public & quite bitter divorce from WKRP in Cincinnati actress Loni Anderson in the early 90’s, but those things happen. Nobody’s perfect, right?? At the end of the day I assume that most actors would prefer their legacy to be the work that they did, and in that regard it is undeniable that Burt Reynolds provided us with more than his fair share of treasured entertainment.
If you’d like to go back and check out second round action in the Fly, Phat, & Dope divisions please follow the links and do so at your leisure.
The Shawshank Redemption
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Tim Robbins
Directed By: Frank Darabont (The Green Mile)
Listen doctor, I’ve got a boy here in cardiac crisis. You can’t treat that with Coca-Cola or Bisquick. We’re gonna have to use real medicine this time.
Southern women…well, they require a substantial commitment. You might have to stay here six months.
I suspect your version of romance is whatever will separate me from my panties.
Odds & Ends
The movie was filmed in Micanopy, FL, a small town of 650 people just south of Gainesville.
The makers of the Disney/Pixar film Cars have been accused of plagiarizing its plot from Doc Hollywood.
The city thru which Michael J. Fox is driving in the opening credits is Richmond, VA.
The Shawshank Redemption is based on a 1982 Stephen King novella and might be the finest adaptation of his work to film. In the late 1940’s banker Andy Dufresne is wrongly convicted of the double murder of his wife & her lover. He is sentenced to life in prison and there befriends Red, an older & wiser convict who is able to procure items from the outside for his fellow inmates. Andy spends nearly three decades plotting his escape, battling a corrupt warden and encountering other difficulties along the way. But eventually he does break out of prison in the most ingenious way. Not long after that Red is paroled and makes his way to Mexico to reunite with his friend. The movie was 51st at the box office, behind such greatness as Pauly Shore’s In the Army Now, Major League 2, & Richie Rich starring MacCauley Culkin. In retrospect that is a really poor reflection on the collective taste of the viewing public. The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Freeman), but didn’t win any of them (Forrest Gump and Tom Hanks won their respective categories). It holds a stellar 91% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The NY Daily News called it “an engagingly simple, good-hearted film, with just enough darkness around the edges to give contrast and relief to its glowingly benign view of human nature”, and the NY Times said it is “a slow, gentle story of camaraderie and growth, with an ending that abruptly finds poetic justice in what has come before”. Gene Siskel thought it was “simply marvelous entertainment”, while his cohort Roger Ebert opined that it is “a movie about time, patience and loyalty…not sexy qualities perhaps, but they grow on you during the subterranean progress of this story”. Doc Hollywood got past Liar Liar in Round 1 because I like Michael J. Fox more than Jim Carrey, and Julie Warner emerging naked out of a lake is just the cherry on top. In reading reviews of the film one will run across words like predictable, breezy, formulaic, nice, charming, loveable, & heartwarming, which unintentionally combine to damn it with faint praise. As anyone who has gone thru this process with me knows, Doc Hollywood is precisely the sort of mildly entertaining movie that is in my wheelhouse. It is comfort food cinema that doesn’t break new ground, push any envelopes, or try to convey a message. Fox was never a ultra-cool heartthrob on the level of Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Matthew McConaughey, or Johnny Depp, but before Parkinson’s derailed his life & career he had a likeable, boyish charm with just enough of an edge to keep things interesting. He is perfectly cast in this movie, and the rest of the ensemble compliments him well.
The Verdict:The Shawshank Redemption. Prison movies aren’t normally my thing, but Shawshank isn’t gratuitously violent or depressing, and the performances by Freeman & Robbins are outstanding. It isn’t the kind of lighthearted fare I typically enjoy in vegg mode, but there is something about it compelling enough to have received numerous repeat viewings over the years. Doc Hollywood is a delightful fish-out-of-water story and a solid rom-com, but the competition is just too good.
Starring: Robin Williams, Sally Field
Directed By: Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Only the Lonely, Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone)
That Thing You Do
Don’t worry…no one’s going to prison, son. It’s a very common tale.
When was the last time you were decently kissed? I mean, truly, truly, good and kissed?
Odds & Ends
Tom Hanks was initially opposed to hiring Tom Everett Scott because of Scott’s strong resemblance to a younger Hanks. He was finally convinced by his wife, Rita Wilson, who thought Scott was cute. It was his film debut.
The four actors playing The Wonders rehearsed as a band for eight weeks to get the feel of performing, but most of their performances in the film were dubbed by other musicians.
The bass player played by Ethan Embry is never explicitly named. All references to him in the film are as, “the bass player”, and in the credits he is listed as “T.B. Player”.
Adam Schlesinger, the bassist of Fountains of Wayne, penned the title song in response to a contest being held by the studio.
The guys are shown drinking Koehler Beer, which was a real brand produced by the Erie Brewing Company on State Street in Erie, PA.
The state fair entertainment circuit of the mid-60s actually existed until the mid-80s. Fair managers would work together on routing and negotiate lowered performers’ fees as a group.
While trying to decide on a name for the band, the names glimpsed in Jimmy’s notebook are: The Dollars, The Lords of Erie, The Pistunes, The Thorns, The Mozarts, The Echoes, The Ticks, The Didoctics, and The Flannels.
In 1993 Robin Williams was several years past career defining roles in Good Morning Vietnam and Dead Poets Society, both of which had gotten him Oscar nominations. He had done a couple of good movies…Awakenings in 1990 and Aladdin in 1992…but had also been in films like The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Cadillac Man, Shakes the Clown, & Hook that hadn’t really…made an impact. But then came this little gem, a dramedy about a divorced father who goes to the extreme of dressing as an elderly British nanny to spend time with his three children. It was the second highest grossing film of the year, behind only Jurassic Park, and holds a solid 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety called it “overly sappy in places and probably 20 minutes too long”, but also said that it is “a slick surface for Williams’ shtick, within a story possessing broad family appeal”. Newsweek said that “I’ve rarely laughed so much at a movie I generally disliked”, which is an odd comment to say the least. Ebert was underwhelmed, opining that “the film is not as amusing as the premise”. Entertainment Weekly thought that “Williams outclasses the movie”, which seems to be the general consensus…Williams is brilliant, but the movie itself is just okay. That Thing You Do got past Backdraft in Round 1 in a battle of opposites…likeable dramedy versus an effects laden action drama. What has always fascinated me about That Thing You Do is its tone. We all know that one hit wonders are a real thing. We know that bands break up all the time. Egos. Jealousy. Greed. Pride. Differing visions and a mix of personalities. There are dozens of things that can contribute to a group’s implosion. This movie could have easily become a thoughtful, profound, sober examination of such situations, and I have no doubt that all involved would have pulled it off. But instead Hanks, in his role as screenwriter & director, decided to keep things cheerful & fun, and I think it works.
The Verdict: Mrs. Doubtfire. Another Hanks vs. Williams contest, and this time Williams comes out on top. I actually think That Thing You Do might have benefitted from more onscreen time for Hanks, but instead he has a supporting role and the focus is on the band. I love the movie’s theme song, and if The Oneders were a real pop/rock group I’d probably like their music a lot. Having said that, Mrs. Doubtfire is just too good to ignore. I understand the perspective of the critics’…Williams’ performance stands out more than the movie as a whole. I don’t disagree. But for now that’s more than enough.
Scent of a Woman
Starring: Al Pacino, Chris O’Donnell
Directed By: Martin Brest (Beverly Hills Cop, Meet Joe Black, Gigli)
The Blair Witch Project
I just want to apologize to Josh’s mom, and Mike’s mom, and my mom. I am so sorry! Because it was my fault. I was the one who brought them here. I was the one that said “keep going south”. I was the one who said that we were not lost. It was my fault, because it was my project. Everything had to be my way. And this is where we’ve ended up and it’s all because of me that we’re here now – hungry, cold, and hunted.
Okay, here’s your motivation. You’re lost, you’re angry in the woods, and no one is here to help you. There’s a witch, and she keeps leaving shit outside your door. There’s no one here to help you! She left little trinkets, you took one of them, she ran after us. There’s no one here to help you! We walked for 15 hours today, we ended up in the same place! There’s no one here to help you, that’s your motivation! That’s your motivation!
Odds & Ends
This film was in the Guinness Book of World Records for “Top Budget: Box Office Ratio” (for a mainstream feature film). The film cost $60,000 to make and made back $248 million, a ratio of $1 spent for every $10,931 made.
Heather Donahue’s mother received sympathy cards from people who believed that her daughter was actually dead or missing.
To promote discord between actors the directors deliberately gave them less food each day of shooting.
In a scene where the main actors are sleeping in a tent at night, the tent suddenly shakes violently and they all get scared. This was unscripted and the director shook the tent. The actors actually were scared.
One of the video cameras used by the actors was bought at Circuit City. After filming was completed, the producers returned the camera for a refund, making their budget money go even further.
Numerous fans were so convinced of the Blair Witch’s existence that they flocked to Maryland in hopes of discovering the legend.
The actors were requested to interview the townspeople, who often, unbeknownst to the actors, were planted by the directors. As a result, the expressions on the actors’ faces were unrehearsed.
The Blair Witch was supposed to be seen in the movie. As the characters were running out of their tent, Heather yells, “Oh my God, what the f*** is that? What the f*** is that?”, the cameraman was supposed to pan to the left where the audience would briefly see a woman wearing a white gown in the distance. But the cameraman forgot to pan to the left and the scene was not reshot.
Before the film was released, the three main actors were listed as “missing, presumed dead” on IMDB.
The 1999-2000 hunting season suffered badly due to this film. The movie was so popular that fans all over the country were hiking into the wilderness to shoot their own Blair Witch-style documentaries. As a result, they kept most of the wildlife scared away from hunting areas.
The “F” is used word 154 times.
One of the first theatrical features to make use of a large-scale viral marketing, which claimed that the three main characters had really gone on a trip to shoot a documentary and were never found again, save for their video camera and the footage they shot. A website was posted on the Internet one year prior to the release to set up the premise of the documentary, complete with detailed reports of the search, the recovery of the trio’s footage within an old cabin, reactions from their families, and expert opinions. The three actors were instructed to refrain from making public appearances. The myth wasn’t debunked until after the movie’s premiere.
Held the record for the highest-grossing independent movie of all time until October 2002, when it was surpassed by My Big Fat Greek Wedding.
Speaking of great performances that are more memorable than the movie itself…
With all due respect to Chris O’Donnell, Al Pacino almost singlehandedly carries Scent of a Woman, in which he portrays a retired blind Army Ranger who persuades his young caregiver to accompany him on one last adventure before he kills himself. Thankfully it’s not as depressing as it sounds. Lt. Col. Frank Slade is a cynical alcoholic who lives with his niece & her family in New Hampshire. Charlie Simms is a smart but financially challenged student at a nearby prep school. Charlie needs to make some money to afford a trip home to Oregon for Christmas, while Col. Slade’s family is headed out of town for Thanksgiving and isn’t taking him with them. Charlie accepts a job essentially babysitting Col. Slade for a few days, but he gets much more than he bargained for. There is a weak subplot about Charlie possibly getting in trouble over some prank that he witnessed at school, but make no mistake…Scent of a Woman is all about Col. Slade and Pacino’s scene chewing performance. In the hands of any other actor Col. Slade might simply be a bombastic, pitiful, angry windbag, but instead there is nuance & character development. The movie received multiple Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture (which it lost to Unforgiven), Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay, but the one it took home was Pacino’s first Oscar for Best Actor. He had been nominated on seven previous occasions (for performances in The Godfather & The Godfather Part II, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, And Justice For All, Dick Tracy, and Glengarry Glen Ross). Scent of a Woman was the 19th highest grossing film of 1992 and holds an 88% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert thought the movie was a bit formulaic & predictable, but also said that “rarely have we been taken there with so much intelligence and skill”. The Washington Post complimented “a great performance from Pacino” and the “mostly wonderful, edgy script”. The NY Times praised the filmmakers for “turning a relatively contrived situation into a terrific showcase for Mr. Pacino’s talents”. There is a considerable amount of reproach for the film’s 2 ½ hour length, but I don’t mind that a bit if the story is really good. Blair Witch got past A Time to Kill in Round 1 because I feel like the book is better than the movie, and because Blair Witch is such a unique film, both the movie itself and the promotional campaign that made it a surprise hit. So much of what is commonplace today…viral marketing, “reality” entertainment, documentary style horror films…was unique & avant-garde two decades ago. I’m not a horror movie guy, but even I know that The Blair Witch Project helped revolutionize what had become a stale genre. Knowing what we know now and with social media & The Internet being such a big part of daily life, it is difficult to imagine anyone being able to pull off what the powers-that-be did with this film. A sequel was produced just a year later, and while it turned a tidy profit it didn’t come close to having the impact on pop culture as the original.
The Verdict:Scent of a Woman. Simply put, I like Pacino a lot more than I like horror movies. I watched Blair Witch once when it first came out on home video, but it’s seldom shown on TV and chances are I’d keep right on channel surfing if it was on somewhere. Conversely, Pacino is a magnet that draws one into Scent of a Woman, and it would be rare if I didn’t stop and watch when the opportunity arose.
The Lion King
Starring: Matthew Broderick, James Earl Jones, Jonathan Taylor Thomas
Directed By: Roger Allers & Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little)
Lethal Weapon 4
Oh, I’m a perp? Oh, you see a young brother in the back of a police car, automatically I’m a perp?! Look at my suit! Look at my tie! What do I look like, a fuckin’ Crip’s accountant?! Look at this badge, bitch! Check out the gun!
Your baby is having my baby!
You have the right to remain silent, so shut the fuck up! Okay!? You have the right to an attorney! If you can’t afford an attorney, we’ll provide you with the dumbest fuckin’ lawyer on Earth! But if you get Johnnie Cochran, I’ll kill ya!
Stop turning everything around! You’re so damn touchy! These guys’ll tell ya, we work together, we got a history together! Hey, maybe we’ll work together someday! I’m the bomb, they’ll tell ya, I’m great!
Odds & Ends
Not only was this Jet Li’s first American-produced movie, it was also the first time he’d ever played a villain (Jackie Chan turned it down the role because he chooses never to play the villain in a movie). Director Richard Donner had to ask Li to slow down during action sequences because he was moving faster than the camera shutter speed and it wasn’t registering on film.
Riggs’ trailer is in the same place that Jim Rockford’s trailer was during the majority of The Rockford Files’ run.
Murtaugh’s boat is named Code 7, which is the LAPD radio code for a lunch break.
Okay, confession time. While writing this project (as well as previous things like 80’s Movie Mania and Merry Movie Mayhem) I oftentimes rely on my memory and prior viewings of a movie when opining. Most of the time this hasn’t been an issue because chances are good that I have watched the film fairly recently. After all, repeat viewings are a major element for me, right?? On the rare occasions that my recall is a bit fuzzy it usually isn’t an issue to stream a movie since I’m a night owl, late night TV has lost its luster for me, and my work schedule isn’t too oppressive. However, I have not watched The Lion King in several years and it is not available to rent anywhere on my Roku. Since I am unwilling to pay $15 to buy it I am left with a conundrum. I know that Disney can be a bit weird about such matters, occasionally putting a film in their vault and making it generally unavailable to the public for a number of years. I also realize that they will be launching their own streaming service in 2019 and that a “3D virtual reality” remake of The Lion King directed by Jon Favreau will hit theaters next summer. So, despite its impressive pedigree I have to strike down The Lion King from this competition due to its…inaccessibility. Way to go Disney.
The Verdict:Lethal Weapon 4. I suppose winning by default is still winning, right??
Starring: Morgan Freeman, Robert Duvall, Téa Leoni
Directed By: Mimi Leder (The Peacemaker)
My life’s work is teaching. And I believed that if you boys won that science fair, got scholarships, went off and did something great with your lives, somehow my life would have counted for something. You know what? Sometimes you really can’t listen to what anybody else says. You just gotta listen inside. You’re not supposed to end up in those mines. You know why? ‘Cause I think you made other plans. I want you to know something. I’m proud of you.
If I win at Indianapolis, maybe I can go to college, maybe even get a job at Cape Canaveral! There’s nothing here for me! The town is dying, even the mine is dying. Everybody knows that but you!
Homer once said you love the mine more than your own family. I stuck up for you because I didn’t want to believe it. Homer has gotten a lot of help from the people in this town. They’ve helped him build his rockets. They’ve watched him fly ’em. But not you, John. You never showed up, not even once. I’m not asking you to believe in it, but he’s your son, for God’s sake!
Odds & Ends
The location of the slag dump where the Rocket Boys actually tested their rockets still exists. It is now a large grassy field. It is located in the actual town of Coalwood, WV. The town of Coalwood celebrated the Rocket Boys with the October Sky Festival, but by 2012 the town had lost so many residents that the event was moved to Beckley, WV due to the lack of able-bodied volunteers remaining in Coalwood.
The boys rarely tested a single rocket per day. They often manufactured several rockets and tested them in sequence. The rocket that hit Homer’s father’s office during their early testing, when they were launching rockets near the mine, was actually the last rocket of several they launched that day.
Homer H. Hickam Jr. helped design and build the cannon that is used during the Virginia Tech Hokie football games.
Much of the filming took place in Petros, TN, which is a tiny little town just outside of Oak Ridge, TN. Oak Ridge is known as The Secret City because it was built specifically to help develop nuclear weaponry during WWII. It is home to the Y-12 nuclear plant, still active today.
You will recall that in 1998 two movies about an asteroid heading toward Earth were in theaters just months apart from one another. Armageddon made it to the second round in the Phat Division before being eliminated, but I’ve always thought Deep Impact is a better film. There are a few subplots, including a young MSNBC reporter who stumbles upon the story about the asteroid and who must repair relationships with her estranged parents before the world ends. As with Armageddon there is a crew sent up in a space shuttle in an effort to destroy the asteroid, but this crew is far different. The conflicts and storylines are much more cerebral & emotional, and the action toned down a bit, though there are still plenty of explosions and lots of destruction. The cast isn’t nearly as cool as that other movie, but whenever you have Morgan Freeman as the President of the United States that’s pretty awesome, and young star Elijah Wood would go on just a few years later to portray Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Deep Impact was the 8th highest grossing film of 1998 but has a subpar 45% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. People Magazine opined that it is “neither deep nor impactful”, but said that it “goes well with popcorn”. The Washington Post called it a “lightweight melodrama” that presents “lackluster imitations of real life”. Variety thought it was “spectacular enough in its cataclysmic scenes of the planet being devastated by an unstoppable fireball”, but “far from thrilling in the down time spent with a largely dull assortment of troubled human beings”. October Sky upset Oscar nominated Four Weddings & a Funeral in Round 1 because that’s how I roll. I am probably a little bit biased toward movies about and/or filmed in West Virginia. We tend not to have as many famous faces or outright heroes that hail from our humble state, so we warmly embrace the handful of folks that have made us proud. Homer Hickam surely deserves that kind of respect, and his story is effectively told. Chris Cooper might be one of Hollywood’s most underrated actors, and his portrayal of Hickam’s father really rings true to the kind of quiet pride, dogged work ethic, & unspoken melancholy that I’ve witnessed in so many Appalachian men.
The Verdict:Deep Impact. This is a tough call. Despite what most of the critics say I really like Deep Impact. The casting director may have dropped the ball (with the aforementioned Freeman as a notable exception obviously), but I have to give credit to a screenplay that tries to focus on the humanity as much as the special effects. Both of these films are kind of a downer (despite happy endings), but I think Deep Impact is just more entertaining.
Starring: Mike Myers, Dana Carvey
Directed By: Penelope Spheeris (Black Sheep)
The Big Lebowski
Look, let me explain something to you. I’m not Mr. Lebowski. You’re Mr. Lebowski. I’m The Dude. So that’s what you call me. That, or His Dudeness … Duder … or El Duderino, if, you know, you’re not into the whole brevity thing.
This is a very complicated case, Maude. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you’s. Alotta strands to keep in my head, man. Lotta strands in old Duder’s head. Luckily I’m adhering to a pretty strict drug regimen to keep my mind, you know, limber.
Well, sir, it’s this rug I had. It really tied the room together.
Saturday, Donny, is Shabbos, the Jewish day of rest. That means that I don’t work, I don’t drive a car, I don’t ride in a car, I don’t handle money, I don’t turn on the oven, and I sure as shit don’t roll!
Nihilists! I mean, say what you want about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.
You want a toe? I can get you a toe. Believe me. There are ways, Dude…you don’t wanna know about it, believe me. Hell, I can get you a toe by 3:00 this afternoon, with nail polish.
The Dude abides.
Lady, I got buddies who died face-down in the muck so that you & I could enjoy this family restaurant!
Forget it, Donny, you’re out of your element!
The Chinaman is not the issue here, Dude! I’m talking about drawing a line in the sand! Also, Dude, “Chinaman” is not the preferred nomenclature. “Asian-American,” please.
Smokey, this is not ‘Nam. This is bowling. There are rules!
Were you listening to The Dude’s story, Donny?
Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.
Odds & Ends
In an early draft of the script, The Dude’s source of income was revealed. He was an heir to the inventor of the Rubik’s Cube, which would have also made him Hungarian in turn. It was Joel Coen’s idea to drop this plot point.
Jeff Bridges met with the Coen Brothers after reading the script and asked them “Did you guys hang out with me in high school?” referring to The Dude’s easygoing surfer persona.
The Dude tells Maude he was a roadie for Metallica on their (fictional) “Speed of Sound” tour and refers to the band members as a “bunch of assholes”. Metallica themselves were flattered to be referred to in a Coen Brothers movie, with guitarist Kirk Hammett once noting in an interview that they’d tried to think of a way to incorporate that scene into their live shows.
The Dude’s line, “The Dude abides”, is a reference to Ecclesiastes 1:4: “one generation passes away, and another generation comes: but the Earth abides forever.” It is a reference to how the Dude, much like the Earth, can weather change and chaos around him, but still remain the same.
Glenn Frey was reportedly so dismayed about The Dude’s hatred of The Eagles in the movie that he once angrily confronted Jeff Bridges when they met at a party.
White Russian: two parts vodka, one part Kahlúa, and one part cream. Served with ice in a low ball glass.
The “F” word or a variation of it is used 292 times. The word “dude” is used 160 times.
The man shown bowling in the picture on The Dude’s wall is President Richard Nixon. Nixon was an avid bowler, and the photo is a well-publicized shot of Nixon in the bowling alley underneath the White House.
Films based on Saturday Night Live characters & sketches don’t have the best track record…to say the least. The Blues Brothers (winners of 80’s Movie Mania) is the gold standard, but then you have stuff like Coneheads, A Night at the Roxbury, & The Ladies’ Man that are total bombs. Turning a ten minute skit featuring only a character or two or three, one set, & a narrowly focused scenario into a two hour big screen motion picture with an actual plot and everything that goes with it can’t be easy, and the old saying that “a little goes a long way” oftentimes holds true. Having said that, Wayne’s World…unlike so many of its counterparts…actually does achieve success on a Blues Brothers level. We know from SNL that Wayne Campbell & Garth Algar are young adults who host a public access TV show filmed in the basement of Wayne’s parents’ house in Aurora, IL. Wayne & Garth are total nerds trying desperately to be cool, and the movie finds them selling their show to a production company headed by a sleazeball portrayed by Rob Lowe. Wayne also falls for a hot female singer and has an on again/off again relationship with her. The ending is kind of odd, but the movie is solidly entertaining, and it finished 1992 as the 8th highest grossing film, sandwiched between The Bodyguard & Basic Instinct (schhhwiinngg!!). Rotten Tomatoes gives Wayne’s World a rating of 86%, with Empire Magazine calling it “a classic comedy of its time”, Entertainment Weekly complimenting its “pleasing daftness”, and Ebert saying that it “works on its intended level and then sneaks in excursions to some other levels, too”. The Big Lebowski easily got past Ten Things I Hate About You in Round 1 and has a solid 82% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Since it is the quintessential cult film I thought it might be fun to venture off the beaten path and look at some audience reviews instead of what the critics had to say. “Eugene” says that it’s “a simple story that requires no over-analyzing to delve into its narrative and concept” and calls it an “effective, humorous and overall a wacky classic”. “Julie” observes that The Dude’s “sole purpose in life is to laze around in his room smoking pot or go bowling with his strange friends” and calls the movie “a bizarre, offbeat tale of mistaken identity & revenge”. “Kevin” credits Bridges for “the most notable role in his career” and thinks Goodman is hilarious, but feels like Buscemi is “was kind of just there” and Julianne Moore in a small role “has been much better in almost everything else”. “Demesa” says that The Big Lebowski “will make any bad day go away…the crafty, nonsensical-ness of the plot is perfect and the cinematography is beautiful”, while “Aaron” praises it for being “without a doubt one of the most clever and funniest movies that I’ve ever watched in my life”.
The Verdict:The Big Lebowski. This is a tough call because I do feel like Wayne’s World is a great 90’s snapshot and really captures the essence of an era. However, for those of us that still slip in the occasional “We’re not worthy!!”, “Not!”, “Party on!”, or “Are you mental?” into casual conversation I think we owe that space carved out in the pop culture retention area of our brain to the SNL sketches as much as or more than the movie. Conversely, The Big Lebowski is like that acquaintance we had in grade school but barely paid attention to, then one day they become our best friend, and eventually we fall madly in love & realize our soulmate has been standing right in front of us for decades. From barely being a blip on the cinematic radar two decades ago it has steadily grown into something that multiple generations embrace & enjoy repeatedly.
Starring: Chris Farley, David Spade
Directed By: Peter Segal (Anger Management, 50 First Dates)
Glengarry Glen Ross
You ever take a dump that made you feel you’d just slept for twelve hours?
Put that coffee down! Coffee’s for closers only. I’m here from downtown. I’m here from Mitch and Murray. And I’m here on a mission of mercy.
All of you’ve got just one week to regain your jobs starting with tonight. Starting with tonight’s sit. Oh…have I got your attention now? Good. ‘Cause we’re adding a little something to this month’s sales contest. As you all know, first prize is a Cadillac Eldorado. Anyone wanna see second prize? Second prize is a set of steak knives. Third prize is you’re fired. Get the picture? You laughing now?
You drove a Hyundai to get here. I drove an $80 thousand BMW. That’s my name!
Only one thing counts in this life: Get them to sign on the line which is dotted. You hear me, you fucking faggots? A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always. Be. Closing.
A guy don’t walk on the lot lest he wants to buy. They’re sitting out there waiting to give you their money. Are you gonna take it? Are you man enough to take it? What’s the problem, pal?
That watch costs more than your car. I made $970,000 last year. How much did you make? You see, pal, that’s who I am, and you’re nothing. Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you! Go home and play with your kids. You wanna work here – close! You think this is abuse? You think this is abuse, you cocksucker? You can’t take this, how can you take the abuse you get on a sit? You don’t like it, leave. I can go out there tonight with the materials you’ve got and make myself $15,000. Tonight! In two hours! Can you? Go and do likewise. Get mad you son of a bitches! You want to know what it takes to sell real estate? It takes brass balls to sell real estate. Go and do likewise, gents. Money’s out there. You pick it up, it’s yours. You don’t, I got no sympathy for you. You wanna go out on those sits tonight and close…CLOSE. It’s yours. If not, you’re gonna be shining my shoes. And you know what you’ll be saying – a bunch of losers sittin’ around in a bar. ‘Oh yeah. I used to be a salesman. It’s a tough racket.’ These are the new leads. These are the Glengarry leads. And to you they’re gold, and you don’t get them. Why? Because to give them to you is just throwing them away. They’re for closers. I’d wish you good luck but you wouldn’t know what to do with it if you got it. And to answer your question, pal, why am I here? I came here because Mitch and Murray asked me to. They asked me for a favor. I said the real favor, follow my advice and fire your fucking ass, because a loser is a loser.
You can’t think on your feet, you oughta keep your mouth closed.
I subscribe to the law of contrary public opinion. If everyone thinks one thing, then I say bet the other way.
If you tell me where the leads are, I won’t turn you in. If you don’t, I am going to tell the cop you stole them. Mitch and Murray will see that you go to jail. Believe me, they will. Now, what did you do with the leads? I’m walking in that door. You have five seconds to tell me, or you are going to jail.
When you die you’re going to regret the things you don’t do. You think you’re queer? I’m going to tell you something: we’re all queer. You think you’re a thief? So what? You get befuddled by a middle-class morality? Shut it out. You cheat on your wife? You did it, live with it. There’s an absolute morality? Maybe. And then what? If you think there is, go ahead, be that thing. Bad people go to hell? I don’t think so. If you think that, act that way. A hell exists on earth? Yes. I won’t live in it. That’s me.
So I wasn’t cut out to be a thief. I was cut out to be a salesman. And now I’m back.
Odds & Ends
The single largest cost of production was for the rain effects throughout the first half of the film.
Jack Lemmon said the cast was the greatest acting ensemble he had ever been part of.
David Mamet’s screenplay considerably expanded his script for the play, providing more context for the pressure placed on the salesmen. Notably, Alec Baldwin’s introductory speech was added as well as Jack Lemmon’s phone calls to clients and the hospital, plus his sales call to the man with the fishing rod. Many consider the screenplay to be superior to the text for his Pultizer-winning stage play. The film version is often transcribed to stage now.
The “F” word & its derivatives are uttered 138 times.
The title refers to Glengarry Highlands and Glen Ross Farms, two properties mentioned in the movie.
David Mamet based his original play on his own experience working in a real estate office in the 1970s when he was a struggling playwright. He was the office manager who gave out sales leads and handled the paperwork.
Tommy Boy isn’t a Saturday Night Live film per se, but it may as well be since its two stars…Farley & Spade…were two of the biggest contributors to that television show’s success in the early 90’s. Farley was ostensibly fired from SNL (along with Adam Sandler) in 1995, while Spade stuck around for one more season and was still appearing on TV when this movie premiered. Tommy Callahan is the inept, socially awkward, accident prone son of Big Tom, the owner of an auto parts company in Ohio. When Big Tom dies unexpectedly at his wedding reception it’s up to Tommy and his buddy Richard to save the company from being sold by the new stepmother & stepbrother, who aren’t what they seem. Tommy Boy is a classic buddy/road film and is the perfect showcase for Farley’s distinctive frenetic humor balanced with Spade’s droll wit. It was the 54th highest grossing film of 1995, behind stalwarts like Judge Dredd, Man of the House, & The Brady Bunch Movie, and holds a feeble 43% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert called it “an assembly of cliches and obligatory scenes from dozens of other movies”. The Washington Post calculated that “as an SNL sketch it would have been a tour de force” but didn’t like the movie. Entertainment Weekly called Farley “a mastodon in a china shop” and said the movie “by any reasonable standard…is stupid, disreputable junk” and left the reviewer “wishing I’d never have to see anything quite like it again”. In Round 1 Glengarry Glen Ross easily beat Bruce Willis’ Striking Distance, a movie I like…but not THAT much. My observation about Glengarry Glen Ross was that “the plot is secondary to the performances”, and there is nothing inherently wrong with that. It isn’t unheard of for a great performance to carry an otherwise average story to new heights. That’s why these actors get paid the big bucks, and a few of them actually deserve it. To have half a dozen bona fide legends at the top of their game in the same movie is almost unheard of, and I can’t imagine that any of those guys did this project for the money. Having said all that, here is the issue. When one watches Glengarry Glen Ross are you watching the movie…or are you watching Pacino, Baldwin, Spacey, Harris, Lemmon, & Arkin?? If someone asked you the plot of the film or the names of any of the characters would you have the right answers?? Most people can probably quote the biggest part of Baldwin’s cameo at the beginning, but can you remember what happens afterward?? I feel like these are legitimate questions and I’m not sure the answer reflects well on the film.
The Verdict:Tommy Boy. I do my best not to be repetitive, but once again the scenario that runs thru my mind is me laying around on a lazy, rainy day vegging out and watching movies. Which of these films would I watch?? I think there is a distinct possibility that I would begin watching Glengarry Glen Ross with the best of intentions, but after Baldwin’s memorable scene I might be inclined to change the channel to Tommy Boy, and once I was there I don’t think I’d switch back. Some might see that as a damning indictment of my taste in movies, and they might be right, but I am not a film critic. I’m not trying to impress anybody with my first-rate intellect. I’m just a guy who enjoys watching movies, laughing, & having a good time. Your mileage may vary and that’s okay.
The Truman Show
Starring: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris
Directed By: Peter Weir (Witness, Master & Commander)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country
Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols
Directed By: Nicholas Meyer (The Day After)
He’s stuck, that’s what it is. He’s in between worlds. You know it happens sometimes that the spirit gets yanked out so fast that the essence still feels it has work to do here.
It’s all in your mind. The problem with you is that you still think you’re real. You think you’re wearing those clothes? You think you’re crouched on that floor? Bullshit! You ain’t got a body no more, son!
Listen, damn it. You are going to help me. There’s a woman. Her name is Molly Jensen and she’s in terrible danger. The man who killed me broke into our apartment and he’s gonna go back. So you’ve gotta warn her.
I know you don’t think I’m giving this $4 million to a bunch of nuns!
Odds & Ends
The role of Oda Mae Brown was not written with Whoopi Goldberg in mind, but Patrick Swayze…an admirer of hers…convinced the producers that she would be right for the part.
The film’s premise is expanded from an old urban legend dealing with a spirit of a recently deceased trying to warn their loved one of an imminent danger.
Patrick Swayze said that the pottery scene was the sexiest thing he had ever done on film.
Molly tells Sam that he “leads a charmed life”. This is a line from William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Macbeth also claims to lead a charmed life, meaning he cannot be killed. Immediately after making this claim, however, he is killed. Sam is killed after seeing a production of Macbeth.
Patrick Swayze and Vincent Schiavelli, who played the subway ghost, both died of cancer at the age of 57.
Our final triple threat match pits a beloved sci-fi franchise against two singular dramedies. The Truman Show was Jim Carrey’s attempt at proving he could actually be a great actor after being known mostly as a clown in movies like Ace Ventura, The Mask, Dumb & Dumber, and Liar Liar. He mostly plays it straight as Truman Burbank, a thirty year old man who has unwittingly been the star of his own television show for his entire life. Everything in his “world” is phony…the quaint little town he lives in, the weather, his parents, all of his friends & colleagues…even his wife. The whole thing is the brain child of a God-like TV producer named Christof, who controls every aspect of the show, which has aired worldwide 24/7/365 for three decades. But all bets are off when Truman begins to figure out the truth. The Truman Show was the 12th highest grossing film of 1998, ahead of Enemy of the State & Shakespeare in Love (which would win the Academy Award for Best Picture), but behind Rush Hour & Godzilla. It holds a 94% score on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for three Oscars…Best Director (Weir, who lost to Spielberg for Saving Private Ryan), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor (Harris, who lost to James Coburn for his performance in Affliction). It wasn’t nominated for Best Picture and Carrey didn’t get a nomination for Best Actor (won by Roberto Benigni for his performance in Life is Beautiful), which in hindsight both feel like huge oversights. That was a really weird year for the Academy Awards. The NY Daily News thought the film’s premise “both reasonable and ludicrous”, but called “its execution sublime”. Rolling Stone said that it is “a near-miraculous balance of humor and feeling”. The Chicago Tribune thought it “a satire/comedy/fantasy about the future of television and the people caught in its omnipresent electronic net…a supremely intelligent jest”. The Cincinnati Enquirer said that it is “funny, moving, imaginative, and wickedly smart about the addictive power of comfy illusion”. Ghost got past the overly angst-ridden & quite tedious Reality Bites in the first round. It is the rare kind of film that is appreciated by audiences and critics alike, making a ton of money at the box office while also collecting well-deserved awards. Swayze passed away in 2009, and I can’t help but wonder how many entertaining movies we’ve been deprived of in his absence because when one looks at his filmography there is no shortage of awesomeness…The Outsiders, Red Dawn, Dirty Dancing…spanning three decades, I have to assume he would have made more good films if he’d have lived. The Undiscovered Country is the sixth & final movie featuring the cast of the original Star Trek television series. I was a bit late to the Trek party, largely because I hadn’t been born yet when the TV show aired in the 1960’s. However, the six films produced between 1979 & 1991 led to my appreciation of the franchise. The movies are admittedly hit & miss, but The Undiscovered Country is unanimously praised as one of the highlights. With The Federation and The Klingons on the verge of signing a peace treaty Captain Kirk & Dr. McCoy are set up to take the fall for the assassination of the Klingon Chancellor and find themselves imprisoned. Of course Kirk is pretty difficult to defeat, so he eventually gets at the truth and saves the day. The movie has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 83% and was the 15th highest grossing film of the year. The Hollywood Reporter observed that “the production has a dark, atmospheric sheen that persistently suggest mystery and danger” and said that it is “not the best of the series, but a suitable farewell”. The NY Times credited the cast for “enthusiasm for their material that has never seemed to fade…if anything, that enthusiasm grows more appealingly nutty with time”. The Washington Post thought that the crew “couldn’t have made a more felicitous or more satisfying exit”.
The Verdict:The Truman Show. I wish that I could push all three contenders thru to the next round, but that’d be a bit much. As much as I love Trek it’s hard to single out The Undiscovered Country for praise when I think that both Wrath of Khan & The Voyage Home were superior films. That’s the thing about long lasting film series…the whole stands above the individual parts. Ghost is a fine film. Swayze was an underrated actor whose talent is more apparent in hindsight that it was in the moment. Demi Moore has rarely been more enchanting. Even Whoopi Goldberg…who has sadly become an insane political hack in recent years…proved herself a talented actress. The only mark against Ghost is lack of repeat viewings. It hasn’t been a movie that I become giddy to see as I’m channel surfing on a cold & lonely night. The premise of The Truman Show was almost prophetic. I can totally see a show like that capturing the world’s attention now. I’m not a fan of reality television at all, mostly because I know there’s nothing real about it and I am almost offended by people like the Kardashians, the Chrisleys, and the idiots on The Bachelor becoming famous for no legitimate reason. But what if the star of the show didn’t realize they were a star??
As we begin second round competition in 90’s Film Frenzy allow me to remind y’all of a couple things. Nine movies in each division were given first round byes and will be pondered for the first time in Round 2. Also, because math is not my thing each division will have a triple threat match in this round. When laying the groundwork for this project the field kept expanding, and mathematically it should have topped out at 96 movies, which would have worked out perfectly. Alas, I’m not that smart sometimes, and now I have to fix my mistake. No big deal. I won’t be listing the basic info…release date, cast, director…for films that have already competed in Round 1 since I’ve already done so, but I will for the 36 that we haven’t discussed yet. Enjoy.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet
Directed By: James Cameron (The Terminator, Aliens, True Lies, Terminator 2: Judgment Day)
Saving Private Ryan
This Ryan better be worth it. He better go home and cure some disease, or invent a longer-lasting light bulb, or something.
Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. And I’ve tried to live my life the best I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.
Odds & Ends
The cast endured a grueling, week-long army boot camp instructed by technical advisor, retired Marine Dale Dye…all the principal actors except for Matt Damon, who was spared so that the other actors would resent him and would convey that feeling in their performances. During the training everybody but Hanks voted to quit, as they found it too arduous. But Hanks thoroughly enjoyed the experience and his vote counted the most, so the rest of the actors were obligated to complete their training.
Military historian and author Stephen Ambrose, at a special screening of the film for him, had to ask for the screening to be halted twenty minutes in, as he couldn’t handle the intensity of the opening. After composing himself outside for a few minutes, he was able to return to the screening room and watch the film to its conclusion.
Cinemas were instructed to up the volume when they showed the film because the sound effects play such a crucial part in its overall effect.
Garth Brooks turned down the role of Private Jackson, which eventually went to Barry Pepper.
Despite being the movies main subject, Private Ryan (Matt Damon) doesn’t appear until over one and half hours into the movie.
Steven Spielberg cast Matt Damon as Private Ryan because he wanted an unknown actor with an All-American look. At the time he had no idea that Damon would win an Oscar for writing Good Will Hunting in 1997 and become an overnight star before Saving Private Ryan was released.
The Omaha Beach scene cost $11 million to shoot and involved about 1000 extras.
Wow, talk about a heavyweight battle. What a way to begin Round 2!! Saving Private Ryan bested The Addams Family in the first round. It’s almost impossible to overlook its 92% Rotten Tomatoes score, the fact that it was the #1 movie at the box office in its year of release, and the five Academy Awards it won. I still cannot believe that Shakespeare in Love won Best Picture. What were the voters thinking?? I was fascinated by the infamous Titanic disaster long before the movie came out, but it undoubtedly increased my own interest and piqued the curiosity of countless others. In the two decades since the film burst onto the scene there have been numerous books & documentaries about the Titanic, practically making it a cottage industry. Not only was it the top grossing movie of 1997, but for a long time it was the highest grossing film of all time until Cameron’s Avatar took the crown in 2009. I still haven’t watched Avatar and doubt if I ever will. Titanic has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Gene Siskel opining that DiCaprio’s “beatific, sweet, open face… gives us a rooting interest in hoping that someone important to us survives the wreck”, while Rolling Stone called the film “pretty damn dazzling”. It won a dozen Academy Awards, including Best Picture & Best Director (Cameron), as well as dominating every other awards show that year.
The Verdict:Titanic. I know some will call for the immediate revocation of my “Man Card”. So be it. It has become fashionable over the years for those who deem themselves too cool for school and perpetually above the fray to declare that they’ve never seen Titanic, a notion that I find laughable because…well…math. It is the second highest grossing film of all time, so logic dictates that a lot of people saw it, and that’s not even counting the ensuing years when it’s become ubiquitous on television and readily available on home video. In stating that I’ve never seen Avatar I realize that I am in a rather small minority, whereas if everyone who claims that they’ve never watched Titanic was telling the truth it wouldn’t have made half as much money. I’m here to tell you that it’s okay…you can admit that you’ve seen & enjoyed it because it is a really good movie. Saving Private Ryan is a great movie too, but war films just aren’t my thing. Perhaps if I’d served in the military or had close friends who’d been soldiers in wartime I might feel differently, but it simply isn’t the kind of thing you’d see me watching during vegg time.
Directed By: Jonathan Lynn (Nuns on the Run, The Whole Nine Yards)
A bomb is made to explode. That’s its meaning…its purpose. Your life is empty because you spend it trying to stop the bomb from becoming. And for who? For what? You know what a bomb is that doesn’t explode? It’s a cheap gold watch.
Poor people are crazy, Jack. I’m eccentric.
I’ve heard relationships based on intense experiences never work.
Odds & Ends
Sandra Bullock actually learned to drive a bus for the film, passing the test on her first attempt.
Joss Whedon re-wrote the script uncredited. According to the credited writer Whedon wrote most of the dialogue.
Ten busses were used in the making of the film. Each one had two steering wheels, one for Sandra Bullock, the other for the stunt driver, which was more often than not, on the roof of the bus.
Speed was released one week before O.J. Simpson led Los Angeles police on a chase in his white Bronco after he was suspected of murder. After the Bronco chase, many audiences who saw the film in theaters, noticed how closely scenes from the film, resembled the real-life Bronco chase, including media coverage, and aerial shots of Los Angeles freeways.
The film was originally written with Jeff Bridges & Ellen DeGeneres in mind for the lead roles.
Speed got past Dazed & Confused in the first round based on the combination of its pop culture It Factor and stellar critic reviews. I’m not an action movie guy at all, so when such a film catches my eye it is a rare & special treat. The cast is terrific, the writing is superb, and at the time the action sequences were fresh & original. The old saying is that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and in the past two decades Hollywood has flattered Speed a lot. It’s right up there with Die Hard amongst movies that are copied, with only slight variations on an obvious theme. This thievery began as early as 1997 with a sequel to Speed itself. Unfortunately Speed 2: Cruise Control was doomed from the outset when Reeves declined to return. My Cousin Vinny is the rare comedy that received much love from normally stodgy critics. It has an 85% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Baltimore Sun called it “hardly brilliant…but it’s easygoing and occasionally quite funny and ultimately satisfying”, the NY Times said it is “easily the most inventive and enjoyable American film farce in a long time”, and Ebert opined that “it’s the kind of movie home video was invented for…not worth the trip to the theater, but slam it into the VCR and you get your rental’s worth”. Mr. Ebert (may he rest in peace) unwittingly clarified exactly the kind of movie that defines my wheelhouse. I understand that studios, suits, bean counters, & erudite types like critics are focused on the here & now and getting people to throw down their hard earned cash at the local cineplex. For them a film’s lifespan is important for a few months. But here in flyover country we’re more interested in stuff that we can enjoy for many years over & over & over again, especially when one reaches an age when staying home with a good book or a fun movie is far more entertaining than painting the town red. If Ebert intended to damn My Cousin Vinny with faint praise he failed, because even though we don’t have VCRs or video stores anymore we do have streaming services & DVDs, and getting our money’s worth from those things is a goal most of us share.
The Verdict:My Cousin Vinny. Marisa Tomei won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and My Cousin Vinny was the 29th highest grossing film of 1992. That’s good enough for me. It’s on television with some frequency and has aged quite well because good writing never goes out of style. Speed was the best action movie of its generation and if someone forced me to sit down and watch it again with them I wouldn’t be mad. Its legacy has been diminished somewhat by the atrocity that was its sequel, which is probably a bit unfair but nevertheless true. All in all this is simply about personal preference, and I almost always gravitate toward smartly written and skillfully performed comedy.
Directed By: Nora Ephron (When Harry Met Sally, Mixed Nuts, You’ve Got Mail)
By Grabthar’s Hammer, by the Sons of Warvan, you shall be avenged!
Look…I have one job on this lousy ship! It’s stupid, but I’m gonna do it, okay?
I thought I was the crewman that stays on the ship and something is up there and it kills me, but now I’m thinking I’m the guy that gets killed by some monster five minutes after we land on the planet.
Odds & Ends
A scene when Tim Allen is in a men’s room overhearing how the cast of Galaxy Quest are nobodies and all the co-stars can’t stand him mirrors an actual event in William Shatner’s life. He discovered the exact same things about himself when he attended a 1986 Star Trek convention.
On the rock planet Lt. Laredo chides Dr. Lazarus for holding his tracking device upside down. This is a subtle reference to the first season of the original Star Trek series, where Mr. Spock often held his tricorder upside down due to Leonard Nimoy being not yet familiar with the prop.
“I had originally not wanted to see Galaxy Quest because I heard that it was making fun of Star Trek, and then Jonathan Frakes rang me up and said ‘You must not miss this movie! See it on a Saturday night in a full theatre!’. And I did, and of course I found it was brilliant. Brilliant. No one laughed louder or longer in the cinema than I did, but the idea that the ship was saved and all of our heroes in that movie were saved simply by the fact that there were fans who did understand the scientific principles on which the ship worked was absolutely wonderful. And it was both funny and also touching in that it paid tribute to the dedication of these fans.” – Patrick Stewart
Galaxy Quest was one of the earliest films to have its own internet domain and website. However, rather than being a polished part of the marketing campaign, the site (in keeping with the movie’s fandom theme) was deliberately designed to look like a fan page, with screen captures and poor HTML coding.
I’ve never been shy about my affection for a good rom-com, and Sleepless in Seattle is one of the best. Hanks stars as a lonely widow whose young son ropes him into pouring his heart out on a national radio show, and Ryan is the quirky young journalist who hears the show and immediately becomes smitten. Hanks & Ryan starred in three movies together in the 90’s, and I think they rank right up there with Bogie & Bacall, Hepburn & Tracy, and Burton & Taylor when it comes to romantic duos. Sleepless in Seattle was the fifth highest grossing film of 1993 (behind The Firm but ahead of Schindler’s List), and it holds a solid 71% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Newsweek called it a “sweet but perilously thin love story”, Rolling Stone gushed that it is “the hippest, frankest and funniest date movie around”, and the NY Times said “it’s a stunt, but it’s a stunt that works far more effectively than anybody in his right mind has reason to expect”. Galaxy Quest slipped past The Bodyguard in Round 1. As a spoof of sci-fi shows and their rabid fanbases it works more effectively than anyone could have ever imagined. The cast is solid, and who would have ever guessed twenty years ago that it’d be the actor who played beleaguered “red shirt” Guy Fleegman with an Oscar sitting on his mantle?? When you have Star Trek legends like Shatner, Stewart, Frakes, & Takei applauding a movie that kind of makes fun of them obviously someone somewhere did something right.
The Verdict:Sleepless in Seattle. I feel bad for Galaxy Quest. It just got a really tough draw. I first saw Sleepless in Seattle in college. I actually had a date…with a woman!! I can’t remember her name and only knew her for a brief few months, but wherever she is I hope she is as fond of the movie as I am. It’s one of those that I will watch whenever it happens to be on, and I have it in my streaming collection for those odd late nights when there’s nothing else going on and I feel the need to watch a movie.
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening, Chris Cooper, Mena Suvari
Directed By: Sam Mendes (Road to Perdition, Jarhead, Skyfall)
Grumpier Old Men
Last Thursday, I turned 95 years old. And I never exercised a day in my life. Every morning, I wake up, and I smoke a cigarette. And then I eat five strips of bacon. And for lunch, I eat a bacon sandwich. And for a midday snack? Bacon. A whole damn plate! And I usually drink my dinner. Now according to all of them flat-belly experts, I should’ve took a dirt nap like thirty years ago. But each year comes and goes, and I’m still here. Ha!
If my dog was as ugly as you, I’d shave his ass and teach him to walk backwards.
Odds & Ends
This was Burgess Meredith’s last film. He died of complications of Alzheimer’s disease two years later.
Lemmon & Matthau starred in ten movies together.
The cast includes three Oscar winners…Lemmon, Loren, & Matthau, and two Oscar nominees…Margret & Meredith.
Grumpier Old Men defeated Fools Rush In in the first round in a battle of two lightweight comedies. Repeat viewings are a significant marker for me, and this is another one of those movies that I catch often on TV and have stashed in my digital library for a rainy day. Sequels have become a given in Hollywood, and I suppose the premise here is as reasonably good as one could expect. Sometimes it isn’t really about the plot…we just like the characters and enjoy inhabiting their world for a couple of hours once in a while. It isn’t better than its predecessor, but neither is there a significant decline in quality. American Beauty was nominated for eight Academy Awards and won five, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Spacey), Best Director (Mendes), & Best Original Screenplay. The story focuses on Lester Burnham, a middle-aged man with a good job, nice house, lovely wife, and a beautiful daughter…a guy who appears to have everything but is drowning in his own misery, which seems like a fairly unexceptional & commonplace idea. But the thing about ordinary ideas is that they can be jumping off points for exceptionally talented people to work real magic. The characters that inhabit this movie and the things that they do & say are cathartic to average folks because it is unlikely that we would ever actually react similarly outside of our hidden thoughts. American Beauty is a fantasy set in the midst of the humdrum suburban routine. It was the 13th highest grossing film of 1999, behind Runaway Bride & The Green Mile but ahead of Notting Hill & Will Wild West. It has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with CNN calling it “deeply disturbing, acerbically funny, brilliantly acted, breathtakingly original, & highly sophisticated”, People observing that it is “never less than fascinating and always visually stunning”, and The New Yorker saying that “this amazing and impassioned fantasia about American loneliness begins as satire and ends with a vision of the sublime”.
The Verdict:American Beauty. This makes me sad because I adore Grumpier Old Men, but how can I overlook five Oscars and a plethora of stellar reviews?? Grumpier Old Men doesn’t break any new ground or expand on the original’s premise…it just puts it in the microwave, warms it up a bit, and serves up a pleasant second helping of yesterday’s supper. Spacey has never been more brilliant than in American Beauty, and I think Bening may have been robbed at the Academy Awards, losing Best Actress to Hilary Swank for her performance in Boys Don’t Cry.
What did happen to you that day? Only one agent reacted to the gunfire, and you were closer to Kennedy than he was. You must have looked up at the window of the Texas Book Depository, but you didn’t react. Late at night, when the demons come, do you see the rifle coming out of that window, or do you see Kennedy’s head being blown apart? If you’d reacted to that first shot, could you have gotten there in time to stop the big bullet? And if you had – that could’ve been your head being blown apart. Do you wish you’d succeeded…or is life too precious?
For years, I’ve been listening to all these idiots on barstools with all their pet theories on Dallas. How it was the Cubans, or the CIA., or the white supremacists, or The Mob. Whether there was one weapon, or whether there was five. None of that’s meant too much to me. But Leary, he questioned whether I had the guts to take that fatal bullet. God, that was a beautiful day. The sun was out, been raining all morning. First shot, sounded like a firecracker. I looked over, I saw him, I could tell he was hit. I don’t know why I didn’t react. I should have reacted. I should have been running flat out. I just couldn’t believe it. If only I’d reacted, I could have taken that shot. And that would have been alright with me.
By the time you hear this, it’ll be over. The President is most likely dead, and so am I. Did you kill me? Who won our game? Not that it really matters, for among friends like you and me, it’s not whether you win or lose but how you play the game, and now the game is done and it’s time to get on with your life. But I worry, that you have no life to get on with. You’re a good man, and good men like you and me are destined to travel a lonely road. Goodbye, and good luck.
Odds & Ends
This was the first time that The Secret Service offered its full cooperation in the making of a film.
The character of Frank Horrigan was inspired by real-life Secret Service agent Clint Hill, who was with President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, and who later broke down on national television during a live 60 Minutes interview, saying that he felt responsible for the President’s death.
Rarely has a film had a more appropriate title than Dumb & Dumber. That’s not meant as an insult, because I am perfectly fine with the occasional mindless comedy. We all need to laugh a little more. Carrey & Daniels play a couple of unemployed nitwits whose well-intentioned attempt to return a briefcase to a beautiful woman gets them caught in the middle of a kidnapping plot. The details are secondary to the characters and the crazy things they say & do because…well…they’re idiots. Dumb & Dumber was the sixth highest grossing film of 1994 and holds a decent 67% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Entertainment Weekly called it “a frayed string of gags posing as a movie”, but said of Carrey that he “does literal-minded doofdom with peerless enthusiasm”. Variety opined that “the wholeheartedness of this descent into crude & rude humor is so good-natured and precise that it’s hard not to partake in the guilty pleasures of the exercise”, which to me essentially means “it’s so stupid that we didn’t want to like it but we can’t help ourselves”. I think a lot of people would agree with that assessment. A sequel came out in 2014, but I must admit that I’ve never seen it and don’t feel compelled to because sometimes it’s better to just let sleeping dogs lie. In the Line of Fire overcame the challenge of Carrey’s Man on the Moon in Round 1 because a) I gave the nod to a better movie over a single actor’s outstanding performance in a mediocre movie), and b) it had really good reviews & made a ton of money even if no one really remembers it 25 years later.
The Verdict:Dumb & Dumber. The above mentioned B is the sticky wicket now because, as opposed to Man on the Moon, Dumb & Dumber is a funnier, more quotable, and much more fondly remembered film, whereas In the Line of Fire is easily forgotten about. If I’m couch potatoing on a lazy day I am much more inclined to stop channel surfing for Dumb & Dumber. The JFK assassination has been a tremendous launch pad for a stories and was most recently used by Stephen King in his excellent book & miniseries 11/22/63. Eastwood & Malkovich are compelling performers and still better than 95% of actors that are a third their age, but using the metric of repeat viewings the movie just doesn’t measure up.
Starring: Robin Williams, Nathan Lane, Gene Hackman
Directed By: Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Biloxi Blues, Working Girl)
Lethal Weapon 3
You have the right to remain unconscious. Anything you say ain’t gonna be much.
I’m only smoking to take my mind off my dog biscuit problem. I’ve been chasing more cars lately, and when I try to lick my balls I keep falling off the couch.
I’m chaos and he’s mayhem, we’re a double act.
You know what a future a cop has? None. You punch a clock for 30 years, retirement, pension… nothin’ to do. Drunk at noon, bullet in the brain by evening. Well, not for this kid! The police department’s got it all: guns, ammo, drugs, cash… it’s a one-stop shopping center. If you’ve got the balls and the brains, there’s nothing anyone can do about it!
Odds & Ends
For the film’s spectacular climax, the filmmakers found an abandoned housing tract just outside of Lancaster, California. A victim of the Savings and Loan crisis, the property had been untouched for over two years. Twelve out of the fifty-six houses in the tract became a dramatic inferno for the scene.
This is the only movie in the franchise, in which there is no mention of Riggs’ late wife.
In earlier drafts of the script Riggs was actually having an affair with Roger’s older daughter Rianne, which explains a couple of parts in the finished film.
One has to wonder if The Birdcage…as written…would even be made in our modern, overly sensitive, politically correct culture. Based on the 1973 stage play La Cage aux Folles and a remake of the 1978 film about a gay couple whose son becomes engaged to the daughter of very conservative parents, The Birdcage transplants the action from the French Riviera to Miami. Williams, Lane, & Hackman are all brilliant, and I have to give a nod to Hank Azaria, who plays an…eccentric…housekeeper and has since gone on to have a solid career on both the big & small screen. It was the ninth highest grossing film of 1996 and holds a 79% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert complimented “good casting in the key roles” and “a wicked screenplay that keeps the original story but adds little zingers here and there”. USA Today thought it to be “far less plastic than most cross-dressing comedies”, while the San Francisco Chronicle called it “a glossy miscalculation”. Lethal Weapon3 conquered Airheads in the first round, but this is a much tougher matchup. 3 introduced Rene Russo into the mix as Lorna Cole, an internal investigations officer who becomes romantically involved with Riggs. There is a really memorable scene with the two comparing battle scars all over their bodies, and…well…one thing leads to another. Who knew that gunshot & stab wounds could be so sexy?? Joe Pesci is also back as fast talking Leo Getz, now working as an inept real estate agent but also helping in the investigation of a rogue cop.
The Verdict:The Birdcage. I love film series. When four or five (or more) movies are made about the same characters it says a lot about the audience’s affection for them. However, it is always prudent to proceed with caution and ponder the Law of Diminishing Returns, figuring out if people have had enough. I don’t think that is the case with Lethal Weapon 3, but I do believe that the four movies kind of become a blur of action sequences, shootouts, & wisecracks where the whole is more fondly remembered than its individual components. The Birdcage utilizes extreme stereotypes on both sides of the sociopolitical spectrum, which could be considered bellicose by some but seems appropriate for an entertaining farce.
Directed By: The Farrelly Brothers (Hall Pass, The Heartbreak Kid, The Ringer)
Father of the Bride Part II
Just because we’re older doesn’t mean we’re old. This is the 90s.
Father of the bride and a baby? Get out of town!!
Two Vastnick is like, ‘Bye, George! See you next Thursday!’.
Odds & Ends
When the movie opened, aspiring country singer Brad Paisley went to see it in the hopes that an ex-girlfriend he’d seen the first Father of the Bride with would be there. She didn’t show, but as he told an Atlanta radio station later, he sat in the theater watching the lead actress and thought to himself, “I could marry a girl like her.” A few years later, he not only married a girl like her, he married that particular girl…actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley.
It is stated that BIll Clinton is older than George Banks by 31 days. Bill Clinton was born on August 19th 1946. That would make George Banks’ date of birth September 19th, 1946.
Father of the Bride II got past What About Bob? in the first round. Critics were generally ambivalent about it, with the word “sweet” coming up a lot but nothing much further. Personally I have always loved the FotB films. Are they great?? No. But they epitomize what I have come to appreciate in a movie…something that makes me smile, that I can watch over & over again, that never lets me down and always puts me in a good mood. I don’t need social commentary or on-the-edge-of-my-seat action, and I don’t even need to be doubled over in laughter. “Sweet” has become almost an insult in our society, but it really shouldn’t be. There’s Something About Mary tells the story of Ted, whose prom night with his dream girl goes hysterically awry. More than a decade later Mary is still on Ted’s mind so he hires a private eye to track her down, but unfortunately things go sideways again, although ultimately he gets the girl. Mary was the third highest grossing film of 1998, behind only Saving Private Ryan and Armageddon. It has an 83% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with Variety stating that it “stands as proof positive that a comedy can be far from perfect and still hit the bull’s-eye if it delivers when it counts”, Rolling Stone calling it “sensational, sicko fun…just the thing to shake up the creeping conservatism that is draining the vulgar life out of pop culture”, and USA Today deeming it “a gut-busting blast of tasteless tomfoolery”.
The Verdict:Father of the Bride Part II. I’m not a prude…really I’m not. However, given the choice between “sweet” and “sicko fun” or “tasteless tomfoolery” I’ll probably take “sweet” most of the time. I’m not sure why, but I just never warmed up to Mary. Like the title says, there’s just something about it, but for me it’s something that I don’t seem to get or enjoy all that much. In its review The Cincinnati Enquirer stated that “the Farrellys work so hard to be outrageous they end up sacrificing story, characters, even comedy, to achieve maximum gross-out”, which is spot on. So-called “gross out comedies” are all about the sight gag and shock value. The goal is to push the envelope as far as possible. But I need a plot and good characters, and there’s nothing about Mary that makes me invested in what happens. FotB 2 doesn’t push any envelopes or challenge societal norms of decency, but it warms my cockles and still holds my attention after all these years, and I think that indeed is pretty sweet.
Directed By: Roland Emmerich (The Patriot, The Day After Tomorrow)
The Silence of the Lambs
Starring: Jodie Foster, Anthony Hopkins
Directed By: Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, Beloved)
Baby you are so money and don’t even know it.
You got to get on with your life. You’ve got to let go of the past, and when you do, the future is beautiful. Look out the window. It’s sunny every day here. It’s like manifest destiny. Don’t tell me we didn’t make it. We made it. We’re here. And everything that is past is prologue to this.
Look, we’re gonna spend half the night driving around looking for this one party and you’re going to say it sucks and we’re all gonna leave and then we’re gonna go look for this other party. But all the parties and all the bars, they all suck. I spend half the night talking to some girl who’s looking around the room to see if there’s somebody else who’s more important she should be talking to. And it’s like I’m supposed to be all happy ’cause she’s wearing a backpack, you know?
Laugh all you want but if you call too soon you might scare off a nice baby who’s ready to party.
Now look…when you go up to talk to her, man, I don’t want you to be the guy in the PG-13 movie everyone’s really hoping makes it happen. I want you to be like the guy in the rated R movie, you know, the guy you’re not sure whether or not you like yet. You’re not sure where he’s coming from. Okay? You’re a bad man. You’re a bad man. You’re a bad man. Bad man.
Odds & Ends
Loosely based on the experiences writer Jon Favreau had when he first moved to Los Angeles. He had just broken up with a long term girlfriend and counted on his friends Vince Vaughn and Ron Livingston to cheer him up. The characters they play in the film are based on themselves.
Favreau wrote the screenplay in two weeks, with various friends in mind for key roles.
Some of the bar scenes were shot in actual bars during business hours. A sign was posted near where they were shooting warning patrons that if they came any closer, they would be unpaid extras in the film.
The shots taken from the hood of the car in Las Vegas were done without a proper permit. The interior of the casino was not the Stardust as the exterior shots imply, but was instead a downtown casino that they paid money to use for the evening.
Since the filmmakers couldn’t afford to pay extras, the scenes filmed at parties were filmed at actual parties that were taking place, with many Hollywood up-and-comers in attendance.
Trent, Mikey, Sue, Rob, and Charles represent the five members of the original Rat Pack: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop, and Sammy Davis Jr..
Jon Favreau’s grandmother is the lucky gambler at the $5 minimum blackjack table, while Vince Vaughn’s father Vernon plays the lucky gambler at the $100-minimum blackjack table.
The release of the film coincided with the swing revival of the 1990s. It increased interest in 1940s culture, Hollywood nightlife, and swing music. Some of the slang used in the film became popular in the years following its release, especially the use of the word “money” as a catch-all term of approval or quality. The exclamation “Vegas, baby!” also became a common quote when referencing the city. The film also gave exposure to the term “Wingman” in its social interaction context.
Among the many studio notes that Jon Favreau received from potential bidders were to nix the Vegas scenes, change Trent into a woman, have Trent played by Johnny Depp, and/or to cast Chris O’Donnell or Jason Priestley. (editorial note: all of these are horrible ideas…thank God none were implemented)
This is the first of our four triple threat matches in the second round because I am mathematically challenged. Swingers got past Batman & Robin in the first round, and more than two decades later it is still one of Vince Vaughn’s top 2 or 3 performances. It is fascinating that the film is so closely associated with Las Vegas (Vegas baby! Vegas!!) since only a small portion of the story takes place there. I’m sure marketing experts have done studies on the power of a catchphrase, and Swingers has to be a prime example. Independence Day is the quintessential legit summer blockbuster. I imagine that the pitch took about 30 seconds: “Aliens invade Earth on July 4th and blow up The White House”…”Yes please!!”. Will Smith had burst onto the scene as a young rapper and became a TV star with his hit series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. By 1996 The Fresh Prince was in its final season, and just a few months after the last episode aired Independence Day hit theaters. Of course Smith isn’t the sole focus of the film…Goldblum, Pullman, Judd Hirsh, Robert Loggia, Randy Quaid, & Vivica Fox all play key roles as well, and as we all know with these kinds of movies the explosions & special effects are the real star of the show. ID4 was easily the #1 movie at the box office in 1996, and it holds a solid 63% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. CNN called it “splendidly cheesy entertainment”, Entertainment Weekly referred to it as “the first futuristic disaster movie that’s as cute as a button”, and Newsweek opined that “if I were a 10-year-old boy I’d probably think it was the coolest movie going”. The Silence of the Lambs is an adaptation of Thomas Harris’ excellent 1988 novel. Harris had actually introduced infamous Dr. Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter in an earlier book titled Red Dragon which was adapted into a 1986 film called Manhunter that no one bothered to see. It’s safe to say that Lambs is a much more successful endeavor. FBI agent Clarice Starling seeks the imprisoned Dr. Lecter’s assistance in the case of another serial killer named Buffalo Bill. Lambs isn’t your typical police procedural, and is more of a psychological thriller than a horror film, although there are a few unforgettably violent scenes. It was the 4th highest grossing film of 1991, ahead of Hook and City Slickers, but behind Terminator 2:Judgment Day and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The Silence of the Lambs has a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and won five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Demme), Best Actor (Hopkins), and Best Actress (Foster). The Boston Globe said that “it has everything you want in a popular thriller…it’s stylish, intelligent, audacious rather than shocking, and stolen by a suave monster you’ll never forget”, while Rolling Stone opined that “for all the unbridled savagery on display, what is shrewd, significant, & finally hopeful about Silence of the Lambs is the way it proves that a movie can be mercilessly scary and mercifully humane at the same time”.
The Verdict:Independence Day. I am kind of strange when it comes to horror & violence. I can read those sorts of books (assuming it is well-written) all day long, but I don’t enjoy seeing “unbridled savagery” play out on screen. So, despite its unmatched pedigree and the fact that the book it is based on is one of the finest modern novels I’ve ever read I have to pass on The Silence of the Lambs. Swingers is fun, cool, quotable, & well-written entertainment, but just doesn’t measure up to the competition. Independence Day was one of the defining blockbusters of the 1990’s…pure popcorn cinema that doesn’t pretend to be anything else. A sequel was released just a couple of years ago, but I haven’t seen it and don’t feel any particular urge to do so. Will Smith didn’t bother to return, so why should I care??
You have likely noticed that I consistently use two metrics in my evaluation…box office and critic reviews. I utilize Rotten Tomatoes to see what the critics had to say, and I look at Box Office Mojo to see how the movie stacked up financially against its competition. When I was growing up we didn’t have The Internet and movie critics were a rare breed mostly confined to big city newspapers. The big dogs on the block were Siskel & Ebert because they actually had their own television show, so you’re seeing them referenced a lot, mostly out of nostalgia. I also tend to focus on reviews that were written at the time of a film’s release in the 1990s because it is rather bogus and a bit unfair to give credence to something written many years later by a critic who has suddenly jumped on the bandwagon of a cult film that has grown in stature thru the magic of home video. Having said that, neither the box office nor the critics are always an accurate measure of a movie, and something that has achieved cult status for whatever reason shouldn’t be overlooked just because it didn’t make much money or receive critical acclaim two+ decades ago. It’s a delicate balancing act…one I hope that I am doing well.
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg
Directed By: Jerry Zucker (Airplane!,Ruthless People)
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Winona Ryder, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, Renée Zellweger, John Mahoney
Directed By: Ben Stiller (The Cable Guy, Zoolander, Tropic Thunder)
If there is one film in this competition that might qualify as “quintessential 90’s” I think Reality Bites fits the bill. It’s right there in the title…Reality Bites. Angst-ridden twenty-somethings try to find their footing in the post-graduate jungle that is life. That’s pretty much the idea. The cast is impressive, and the soundtrack is representative of its era, with songs from Crowded House, Lenny Kravitz, Julianna Hatfield, & The Posies. Not exactly mainstream, right?? I feel like the most enduring legacy of Reality Bites is the hit song Stay by quirky Lisa Loeb. This movie came out right after I graduated college and had entered the workforce, but at the time I was also still clinging to the old college life…hanging out with my friends and patronizing familiar watering holes ‘til 3am. Stay was in heavy rotation on the jukebox, and I have a vague recollection of a female acquaintance of mine dancing to the song and stripping down to her unmentionables right in the middle of the bar. Ghost was nominated for five Academy Awards and won two of them. When a banker is shot & killed by a mugger his ghost enlists the help of a shady psychic to warn his grieving girlfriend of impending danger. The enduring legacy of Ghost includes the zenith of Patrick Swayze’s solid career, Whoopi Goldberg when she was still funny and not a political hack, one of Demi Moore’s best performances, a renewed appreciation for The Righteous Brothers’ hit Unchained Melody, & a sudden interest in learning more about pottery.
The Verdict:Ghost. I was precisely the target audience for Reality Bites and still found it dull. It was the 63rd highest grossing film of 1994, behind such stalwarts as Shaquille O’Neal’s Blue Chips, Pauly Shore’s In the Army Now, & Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Timecop. Rotten Tomatoes scores it at 66%, with the Chicago Tribune calling it “a good example of an anti-establishment comedy crippled by a seeming desire to infatuate the establishment itself”, while The New Yorker observed that “when the movie is over you don’t feel as if you had shared the experience of a new generation…you feel puzzled and vaguely crummy”. Conversely, Ghost won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Goldberg). It was the second highest grossing film of 1990, behind only Home Alone, and holds a 74% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Gene Siskel declared that “Moore has never been more fetching”, while his buddy Ebert said that the movie “occasionally succeeds in evoking the mysteries that it toys with”.
Starring: Al Pacino, Jack Lemmon, Alec Baldwin, Alan Arkin, Ed Harris, Kevin Spacey
Directed By: James Foley (Reckless, The Chamber)
Starring: Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Farina, John Mahoney
Directed By: Rowdy Herrington (Road House)
Just glancing at the cast of Glengarry Glen Ross elicits such high expectations that it’d be almost impossible for a film to live up to them. Based on a 1984 Pulitzer Prize winning play by David Mamet, the story shows us two days in the lives of aging real estate salesmen desperate to keep their jobs. The corporate office has announced that half of them will be fired in a week, so they must do whatever necessary to get the numbers needed to impress the boss. Lemmon, Arkin, Harris, & Pacino are powerful performers on an individual basis, and as an ensemble they are unmatched. Throw Spacey and a brief but memorable appearance by Baldwin into the mix and what you have is a movie in which the plot is secondary to the performances. In the hands of lesser actors it might be a total yawner, but what we end up with is a masterclass in how to make relatively mundane subject matter absolutely riveting. Bruce Willis was already a big movie star by 1993, with two Die Hards, two Look Who’s Talking films, & less appreciated fare like The Bonfire of the Vanities, Hudson Hawk, & The Last Boy Scout on his resume. Striking Distance tells the story of a disgraced Pittsburgh homicide detective relegated to river rescue duty after opining that a serial killer might be a rogue cop. When someone begins stalking him the game is afoot and the only person he can trust is his fetching female partner…or so he thinks. Striking Distance isn’t fondly recalled as one of Willis’ best, but with a cast that includes Parker, Mahoney, & Farina and a Pittsburgh backdrop familiar to this West Virginian I believe it is better than many may recall.
The Verdict:Glengarry Glen Ross. I’m not usually into murder mysteries or police dramas, but Striking Distance works for me in a way it doesn’t seem to for many others. It was the 63rd highest grossing film of 1993 (better than Rudy but behind Pauley Shore’s Son-in-Law) and has an abysmal 14% Rotten Tomatoes score. Entertainment Weekly called Willis “morose” and the movie a “flat, dankly lit, grindingly inept thriller”, while Ebert called it “an exhausted reassembly of bits & pieces from all the other movies that are more or less exactly like this one”. Conversely, Glengarry Glen Ross has a stellar Rotten Tomatoes score of 94%, with Ebert saying that “you can see the joy with which the actors get their teeth into these great lines” and ReelViews opining that “for anyone who loves sharp dialogue, compelling characters, and a stinging social rebuke, Glengarry Glen Ross is not to be missed”. It was only the 94th highest grossing movie of 1992, yet we must consider that it isn’t a big budget epic but rather a stage play put on film. The fact that one can still appreciate its prominence nearly three decades later outweighs any perceived box office shortcomings.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, Tara Reid, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Directed By: Joel & Ethan Coen (Raising Arizona, Fargo, No Country for Old Men)
Ten Things I Hate About You
Starring: Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Larisa Oleynik
Directed By: Gil Junger (Black Knight, If Only)
Ol’ William Shakespeare is still inspiring people 400 years after he left this mortal coil, and a big Hollywood trend the past few decades is to take the basic theme of a Shakespeare play and set it in modern times with young & hip movie stars. Ten Things I Hate About You turns Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew into a romantic dramedy about high school students. Stiles, Ledger, Gordon-Leavitt, & Oleynik star as two sisters and the guys attempting to woo them, and the cast also includes Andrew Keegan, David Krumholtz, Gabrielle Union, & Allison Janney. It was the 53rd highest grossing film of 1999 and has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 62%, with Variety observing that it “doesn’t even seem certain which decade it’s set in”, the San Francisco Chronicle opining that the movie “wimped out by blanding down the story and the characters to the point where she isn’t really a shrew and he isn’t really a maniac”, and Ebert chiming in that high school films are “running out of new ideas and have taken to recycling classic literature”. The Big Lebowski has grown in stature & popularity in the two decades since its release when it was the 96th highest grossing movie of the year, behind immense competition like Half Baked, Simon Birch, & Bulworth. It is the very definition of a cult film, although with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 82% it seems like critics recognized its greatness long before the masses caught up. Jeffrey Lebowski is known by his friends and refers to himself simply as The Dude. He is the quintessential slacker who enjoys sitting around in his bathrobe, drinking white Russians, and bowling with his pals Walter & Donny. When two thugs assault him in his house demanding money that is owed to their boss it becomes clear that they have the wrong guy…they’re after the other Jeffrey Lebowski – an old, handicapped millionaire. The thugs leave The Dude in peace but take a wiz on his area rug first, which offends him tremendously because the rug “really tied the room together”. When The Dude seeks out the other Lebowski for recompense he ends up getting caught in a complex plot involving kidnapping, ransom, a porn magnate, & a high school kid named Larry. The Cincinnati Enquirer called The Big Lebowski “loopy, unfathomable, profane, & very funny”, while Ebert simply framed it as “weirdly engaging”. There is actually an annual event in Louisville, KY called Lewbowski Fest which, since 2002, has celebrated the film with bowling, trivia, & costume contests, and a “religion” called Dudeism that advocates & encourages “going with the flow”, “being cool headed”, and “taking it easy” in the face of life’s difficulties, which does sound kind of awesome.
The Verdict:The Big Lebowski. No contest. The Dude abides. But well, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion, man.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Chris Cooper, Laura Dern, Chris Owen
Directed By: Joe Johnston (Honey I Shrunk the Kids, Jumanji)
Four Weddings & A Funeral
Starring: Hugh Grant, Andie MacDowell
Directed By: Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire)
Hugh Grant first became a thing in the early 90’s mainly because of Four Weddings & A Funeral. The plot is pretty simple, as it follows a small group of people whose lives keep intersecting at various social engagements, specifically…you guessed it…four weddings and a funeral. Andi MacDowell is a charming actress who has been in a few films that I’ve really enjoyed but she mostly flies under the radar. I vaguely recall seeing Four Weddings & A Funeral back in college, and what I remember most is a cover of an old 60’s song Love Is All Around that would be co-opted again a decade later for the British Christmas rom-com Love Actually. I think others enjoyed the movie more than me, as Four Weddings & A Funeral was nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards, holds a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score, & was the 21st highest grossing film of 1994. Gene Siskel observed that it “couldn’t be more psychologically astute in its portrait of a man who defines himself by his bachelorhood”, while Entertainment Weekly raved that its “infectious charm and sunny goodwill can immediately buoy a soul”. Fellow West Virginian Homer Hickam is the subject of October Sky, which is based on his memoir Rocket Boys. We meet Homer as a high school student living amongst the economically and otherwise depressed coal fields of southern West Virginia in the 1950s. Homer and his pals dream of a better live outside of Appalachia, and the launch of Soviet satellite Sputnik into space inspires an interest in building rockets. Unfortunately dreams of success, happiness, & achievement are met with resistance from the redneck masses, and it’s up to the young lads to blaze their own trail and prove everyone wrong. The only person who seems to be in their corner is a kindhearted science teacher, but that’s enough. Homer Hickam went on to become a NASA engineer for nearly thirty years. October Sky was the 63rd highest grossing film of 1999 and holds a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ebert complimented the movie’s “deep values”, while CNN called it “a sensational character-driven story with a strong narrative and great visual style”.
The Verdict:October Sky. In doing my prep work I was surprised to learn that Four Weddings & a Funeral had been nominated for Best Picture. Perhaps the timing is just off for me. Back then I was at the tail end of my collegiate existence and caught up in other things. I remember seeing it once, and in the ensuing decades I don’t think I’ve ever seen it again. I’m sure if I went back and watched it now I’d find it perfectly delightful, but obviously it didn’t really resonate with me for whatever reason. Conversely, I can identify with certain beats in October Sky that few outside of Appalachia could ever understand. This was Jake Gyllenhaal’s first starring role, and he & the rest of the cast are superb.
Directed By: Tom Shadyac (Patch Adams, Bruce Almighty)
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Julie Warner, Woody Harrelson, Bridget Fonda, David Ogden Stiers, Barnard Hughes
Directed By: Michael Caton-Jones (Rob Roy)
Jim Carrey is a mixed bag for me. His shtick gets old really quick, and I tired of it fifteen years ago. However, between 1994 & 2003 he starred in a handful of memorable films, and Liar Liar might deserve a spot at the top of the list. Carrey plays a hotshot attorney whose focus on his career and deceitful ways have already ended his marriage and are on the verge of costing him his young son Max, who makes a wish on his birthday that his Dad not be able to lie at all for just one day. Max’s wish comes true and hilarity ensues. Liar Liar was the fourth highest grossing film of 1997 and has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 81%. Variety called it “close to an ideal jumping-off point for Carrey”, the Hollywood Reporter opined that “Carrey has never been better, funnier, or more controlled”, and Ebert expressed trepidation that “I am gradually developing a suspicion that Jim Carrey is growing on me”. Doc Hollywood marked Michael J. Fox’s emergence from the Back to the Future niche that he’d been in for over five years, and the results aren’t too shabby. He plays a hotshot Washington DC doctor on his way to Los Angeles to make bank as a plastic surgeon. But when he crashes his classic Porsche in a rural South Carolina town he finds himself marooned for awhile and forced to serve as the local physician for a quirky group of townsfolk. Gradually he starts to mellow and grow fond of his new neighbors, and of course there is a fetching young lady with which he becomes smitten. Doc Hollywood is kind of predictable, but enchantingly so, with a great cast and fun characters. It was the 24th highest grossing movie of 1991, ahead of Bugsy, Thelma & Louise, and Point Break. Rotten Tomatoes scores it at 71%, with Newsweek saying that it “oversells its whimsy and fits its quirkiness into a sitcom formula”, while Ebert called it “a sweetheart of a movie”.
The Verdict:Doc Hollywood. There is a scene in Doc Hollywood involving the exquisite Julie Warner emerging from a lake that rivals Phoebe Cates infamously exiting a swimming pool a decade earlier in Fast Times at Ridgemont High. I can’t get that scene out of my head when pondering the film. I’m a sucker for stories involving big city types being beguiled by easygoing small town life, and the cast pulls this version of the formula off to my satisfaction. I am not swayed by the box office for Liar Liar and like Fox better than Carrey.
Starring: Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, Joe Pesci, Rene Russo, Chris Rock, Jet Li
Directed By: Richard Donner (Superman, The Goonies, Scrooged)
Can’t Hardly Wait
Starring: Ethan Embry, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Lauren Ambrose, Peter Facinelli, Seth Green, Charlie Korsmo, Jason Segel, Donald Faison, Selma Blair, Sara Rue, Jenna Elfman, Jerry O’Connell, Melissa Joan Hart, Breckin Meyer
Directed By: Deborah Kaplan (A Very Brady Sequel)
Fans of the Lethal Weapon series have been anxiously awaiting a fifth installment for twenty years, and though I’m usually a “never say never” kind of guy I believe at this point that it’s too little too late and I’m okay with that. The fourth & final Lethal Weapon finds Riggs reluctant to marry his very pregnant girlfriend Lorna, Murtaugh dealing with the pregnancy of his eldest daughter by a mystery man, and the long in the tooth duo investigating an illegal Chinese immigrant smuggling situation. Rock joins the cast as an overzealous detective who is more than he lets on, and of course Pesci is back as fast talking ex-con Leo. Lethal Weapon 4 was the 11th highest grossing film of 1998, though it was also the most expensive of the four films to produce. It holds a 52% score on Rotten Tomatoes, with Time referring to it as “mindless, sadistic violence juxtaposed with rote sentimentality”, while the New York Times generously pronouncing that it “turns out to be one of the nicer blow-’em-ups around”. Can’t Hardly Wait is another Hindsight Film, full of young actors who have stuck around long enough to be known for other things. It is also a classic high school film, set at a conventional graduation party and deconstructing all of the requisite high school archetypes. It was the 74th highest grossing movie of the year, ahead of Rushmore and A Simple Plan but behind Bride of Chucky and A Night at the Roxbury. It holds a 40% Rotten Tomatoes rating, with Entertainment Weekly calling it “a high-spirited, synthetically raucous house-party comedy” and Ebert saying that it “lumbers ungracefully from romantic showdowns to deep conversations to bathroom humor”.
The Verdict:Lethal Weapon 4. Though rumors of one last movie persist I think 4 provides a fitting conclusion to a very entertaining series. Perhaps the powers-that-be could learn a lesson from Die Hard, a franchise that should have stopped after three installments but has subjected the masses to two additional films with a sixth one possibly on the way. Sometimes it’s better to end on a high note and leave the memories alone. Back in the days of Party of Five I had a huge celebrity crush on Jennifer Love Hewitt, so I’m all in on Can’t Hardly Wait. However, in a sub-genre that has produced so many memorable movies the past few decades it really doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Starring: Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Donald Sutherland, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rebecca De Mornay
Directed By: Ron Howard
That Thing You Do
Starring: Tom Everett Scott, Liv Tyler, Johnathon Schaech, Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry
Directed By: Tom Hanks
Every uniformed profession…policemen, the military, doctors, lawyers (hey…a three piece suit is kind of a uniform)…seems to get their own movie or TV series eventually. After all, life or death situations provide plenty of theatre. Backdraft is an ode to firefighters that tells the story of a wave of suspicious fires in Chicago, with a little family drama, political intrigue, & romance thrown into the mix. Ron Howard is a terrific director and the all-star cast is impressive, helping to make it the 14th highest grossing film of 1991, just behind Fried Green Tomatoes and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II but ahead of JFK and The Prince of Tides, and has a solid 74% Rotten Tomatoes score. Gene Siskel called it “a spectacle worth observing”, Ebert feebly praised it by saying “the scenes involving fire are so good they make me recommend the movie anyway, despite its brain-damaged screenplay”, and the Washington Post said “Backdraft is sure to do for fire what The Poseidon Adventure did for water”, which may have been meant as a compliment…possibly. That Thing You Do was written & directed by Hanks and tells the story of a small town band that quickly rises to fame in the early 60’s on the popularity of an infectious pop hit. Hanks plays a supporting role, while the real stars are the band along with a fetching young female groupie. As with many actual bands egos & personal agendas quickly get in the way and torpedo the group’s success, making the movie a more insightful than expected examination of why one hit wonders are what they are. It was the 60th highest grossing film of 1996 (better than Fargo and Sling Blade) and has a stellar 93% Rotten Tomatoes score. Variety calls it “a sweet, likeable tale”, the New York Times dubbed it “rock-and-roll nostalgia presented as pure fizz”, & Rolling Stone framed it as “a brightly entertaining blend of humor and heartbreak”.
The Verdict:That Thing You Do. This matchup illustrates a few things. First of all, my personal tastes are on full display, with a breezy, lightweight, fun movie beating out an effects laden, action packed melodrama. Secondly, I think it points to the dichotomy that we see even more today than two decades ago when it comes to movies…the action film packed with explosions and A-List talent that inspires awe on the big screen versus the frivolous guilty pleasure that we watch over & over again on television years after its release. And finally, if the material is written well enough then sometimes it’s okay to cast a few under-the-radar performers and help them pull it off with catchy tunes and a good director. Tom Hanks also wrote & directed 2011’s Larry Crowne, so he isn’t infallible…but I’d be willing to give anything he wrote & directed a whirl based on That Thing You Do.
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock, Kiefer Sutherland, Donald Sutherland
Directed By: Joel Schumacher (St. Elmo’s Fire, Falling Down, Batman Forever)
The Blair Witch Project
Starring: Heather Donahue, Michael C. Williams, Joshua Leonard
Directed By: Daniel Myrick (Believers, The Strand)
In 1999 The Internet was still in its infancy and “going viral” was a new concept. Social media wasn’t a thing yet, but that worked out well for The Blair Witch Project. The movie was highly anticipated before it even hit theaters because of its ingenuous marketing campaign. Reality television wasn’t on anyone’s radar yet either, so many folks were easily duped into believing that the movie was actual lost footage of a student documentary gone terribly awry. One kind of longs for those halcyon days when we weren’t so jaded & cynical. The movie itself follows three student filmmakers investigating an urban legend called The Blair Witch. I’m not a horror film aficionado, but I recall thinking that the movie isn’t really that scary, that it is more fascinating as an examination of the trio’s descent into madness. It was the tenth highest grossing film of 1999, earning more than The Green Mile, Oscar winning Best Picture American Beauty, and the first American Pie movie. That feat is even more impressive when you know that The Blair Witch Project had a budget of only $60k and earned almost $250 million. It has a Rotten Tomatoes score of 87%, with the Associated Press pointing out that “the thought that it might just might be real makes it much scarier”, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune calling it “a no-excuses horror show with an emotional wallop like falling headlong into a bear trap”, and the Washington Post saying it is “not the goriest, the grossest, the weirdest, the eeriest, the sickest, the creepiest, or the slimiest movie…just flat out the scariest”. A Time to Kill might be John Grisham’s best book…even better than The Firm…maybe. The movie takes a few liberties in telling the story of a Mississippi lawyer attempting to defend a black man who murdered two white men that raped & beat his young daughter. McConaughey is superb as the stressed out attorney, and Jackson gives one of his most nuanced performances as the distraught & vengeful father. The main issue I have is that the part of the female law student helping the defense team is beefed up considerably from the book because Sandra Bullock was cast in the part, but I realize that probably only bothers fans of the novel. A Time to Kill was the tenth highest grossing film of 1996, ahead of Scream but behind The Nutty Professor. It has a 65% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Rolling Stone called McConaughey “dynamite in a performance of smarts, sexiness, scrappy humor, and unmistakable star sizzle”, while Ebert thought the movie “a skillfully constructed morality play that pushes all the right buttons and arrives at all the right conclusions”.
The Verdict:The Blair Witch Project. Wow, this is a very difficult decision. Neither film is the kind of breezy couch potato escapism to which I am typically drawn. However, evaluated on their own merits the choice becomes a bit clearer. I am not a big Sandra Bullock fan. There is just something about her that annoys me for no apparent reason. Given that fact, I was more irritated than usual when her character was magnified in the movie far more than she had been in the book. Secondly, while the novel A Time to Kill is probably a better book than The Firm I am not sure that is true when comparing the two movies. I am not at all into horror movies and probably won’t ever watch The Blair Witch Project again, but I cannot overlook its uniquely astounding success and the fact that it was most certainly a product of its time…probably a little ahead of it.
Don’t you just hate when real life interferes with your faux awards show?? To refresh your memory please go back and check out Part 1 & Part 2!!
At any rate, welcome back to the much anticipated conclusion of the 2017 Sammy Awards!! Our host Andy Cohen is rested & ready with some lame jokes and ample complaints about the cold weather.
To present our next award please welcome a former Sammys host and the straw that stirs the drink on the long running syndicated game show Family Feud…Steve Harvey!! And the nominees are:
Michael Keaton stars in a biopic about McDonald’s “founder” Ray Kroc. However, the thing is…Ray Kroc wasn’t truly the founder of America’s most beloved fast food chain. The Founder details how Dick & Mac McDonald were running a popular & efficient burger joint in California when Kroc, an ineffective but ambitious traveling salesman, inserted himself into the mix. The McDonald brothers were happy with the status quo and had little ambition to grow the business. They had very rigid standards for running their restaurant and were unwilling to sacrifice their ideals. Kroc had a vision of McDonald’s franchises in every corner of America and was willing to do whatever became necessary to make it happen, including eventually freezing out the McDonald brothers from the very business they created. Watch this movie and you’ll never look at a Big Mac the same.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Some people love it, a lot of people hate it. I’m somewhere in the middle. There are two overriding themes in The Last Jedi…”out with the old & in with the new”, and subverting expectations. While the cherished original Star Wars trilogy had three different directors just like the sequel trilogy will have, creator George Lucas seemed to have a unifying vision, whereas this new trilogy feels like it lacks any kind of cohesive guidance. The whole point of The Last Jedi is to toss aside decades of lore and destroy everything we always thought we knew about Star Wars. We live in an age of fan theories, online debates, spoiler alerts, & paralysis by analysis when it comes to entertainment, and in an effort to thumb their nose at all of that the filmmakers make a lot of questionable decisions. There’s an old 70’s R&B tune called Give the People What They Want, but the powers-that-be seemingly have no interest in doing that with this trilogy. Having said all of that, I don’t hate The Last Jedi. It is better than The Force Awakens, but that’s about as complimentary as I can be.
Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon, Seth MacFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, & John C. Reilly lend their voices to an animated tale about an anthropomorphic singing competition. Essentially it is American Idol for animals. Cute but forgettable.
The Boss Baby
Alec Baldwin voices a baby with the mind of an adult who has been sent undercover by a corporation to figure out why people love puppies more than babies, or something like that. Animated films are tricky. Some…like the Toy Story trilogy…are written on a level that appeals to all ages, while others are the children’s film they appear to be. The Boss Baby is the latter.
A Dog’s Purpose
Based on a 2010 novel, A Dog’s Purpose uses doggie reincarnation as the jumping off point for a story in which a retriever named Bailey goes thru several lives and has an impact on multiple owners before eventually (spoiler alert) landing back in the life of Ethan, who had Bailey as a kid but is now an aging & lonely man. If you’re a dog lover you’ll enjoy the film and maybe even get a little misty.
Going in Style
Three elderly & financially challenged pals played by Morgan Freeman, Michael Caines, & Alan Arkin decide to fight back when a bank screws them out of their pensions. How?? Well, by robbing it of course, and you’ll find yourself rooting for them to get away with it despite the unscrupulous nature of armed robbery. There are some funny moments, and the charm of the three leads is undeniable, but the movie just doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
Will Ferrell & Amy Poehler star as suburban parents of an intelligent college-bound daughter who’s headed for The Ivy League. But when the municipal scholarship they’re counting on to pay the bill is pulled by the town’s crooked mayor the couple & their goofy best buddy hatch an absurd plot to raise the money by turning his house into a neighborhood casino. The plan goes hilariously awry, or atleast it’s supposed to be hilarious. I had higher expectations.
You may remember the 1990’s TV show that became a syndicated phenomenon. At one time Baywatch was one of the most popular dramas in the world, despite corny scripts & bad acting, and made Pam Anderson into an international superstar. The film adaptation subs in The Rock for David Hasselhoff, and borrows a few characters from the original television program. The plot is completely inconsequential, but the result isn’t as terrible as one might expect.
I’ve not watched any of the Marvel films. Iron Man. Captain America. The Avengers. Guardians of the Galaxy. I haven’t watched one single second of any of them and have zero interest. I wasn’t a comic book kid and feel like I’m a little old to start with all of that now. However, like any red-blooded American I am familiar with the Big Three superheroes…Batman, Superman, & Spider-Man. Batman is my favorite…I love me some Batman. The other two I can take or leave, but I did enjoy the Tobey Maguire Spiderman movies a decade ago. I thought it was stupid when the franchise was “rebooted” with Andrew Garfield just a few years later, so I skipped those movies. But I was feeling a little frisky and decided to give this latest reboot a whirl. The story doesn’t cover any new territory, but the tone is light enough and Michael Keaton is great as the conflicted & relatable villain. The film is entertaining though not remarkable.
The Big Sick
Based on a true story, The Big Sick is an unconventional yet charming rom-com about a cross-cultural romance that hits a pretty big snag when the young lady falls into a coma. Holly Hunter & Ray Romano are really solid as the woman’s concerned parents.
And The Sammy goes to…..
None. Yep, you read that right. It’s not that any of these are bad films. They are all pleasantly entertaining. But none of them are epic. None are sublime. None are unforgettable. None are deserving of an award. We won’t be watching any of them on a lazy, rainy weekend two decades from now. Hollywood needs to stop being social justice warriors and put their deviant & divisive agendas aside. When a person pays their hard earned money for a ticket and sits down in a darkened theater with their popcorn, candy, & vat of soda they don’t give a damn about inclusiveness, tolerance, awareness, diversity, carbon footprints, empowerment, gender fluidity, safe spaces, or white privilege. Everyone may not agree on what makes a film great, but the desire for a quality, fun, outstanding moviegoing experience is universal amongst all sexes, races, political party lines, economic & educational levels, religious affiliations, & ethnicities. There are talented people out there on The Left Coast…brilliant actors, gifted writers, creative directors. We’ve all witnessed them produce splendid & treasured classics that we watch year after year, decade after decade, thru multiple generations. 2017 wasn’t a good year for them or us.
To present our penultimate award we are pleased to welcome to the stage an actor best remembered for his role as Chachi Arcola in the fabled 70’s & 80’s sitcom Happy Days as well as a 2008 reality show that lasted an epic eight episodes. Please give a delightful round of applause to Scott Baio!! And the nominees are:
Biggest News Story
Vehicular Terrorism in NYC & Britain
On Halloween Day in Manhattan a 29 year old immigrant & ISIS sympathizer from Uzbekistan driving a rented pickup truck ran down almost 20 people who were jogging & cycling on a bike path. Eight people were killed. A few months earlier, on March 22, another Islamist nutjob had run down about 50 pedestrians in London, killing four people, and in June a van containing three Muslims killed eight people and injured nearly 50 on London Bridge. Anyone see a common thread here??
The 2017 California wildfire season was the most destructive in history, abolishing a million & a half acres of land and doing over $10 BILLION in damage.
Congressional Baseball Shooting
Since 1909 members of the United States Congress have played a charity baseball game every summer. In 2017, while practicing for the annual game, four people were shot by a leftist Bernie Sanders supporter with a history of domestic violence. Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise was shot in the hip and endured multiple surgeries, spending several weeks in the hospital.
The battle over government-run healthcare rages on. In 2017 the House & Senate voted to repeal Obamacare’s individual mandate, meaning that by 2019 American citizens will no longer be forced to purchase health insurance if they don’t want to. So basically President Trump restored the freedom that is the bedrock of American liberty that President Obama arrogantly thought he had the right to take away.
Last spring Neil Gorsuch was chosen to fill the year-long void on The Supreme Court left after the untimely demise of Antonin Scalia. All indications are that Gorsuch actually respects The Constitution and has no plans to further a radical progressive agenda. Perhaps we can get 2 or 3 more just like him on The Court in the next few years.
Terror in Virginia
In August Charlottesville, VA hosted a rally protesting the removal of a General Robert E. Lee statue. Counter-protesters…aka Antifa…inserted themselves into the combustible situation and…to the surprise of no one with a brain…violence ensued. A 20 year old Nazi enthusiast from Ohio drove his vehicle thru a crowd of people, killing one person and injuring 19. But that’s not the end of the story. A statement about the situation from President Trump caused a collective hissy fit in the media because he didn’t say exactly what they wanted him to say in the poetic way that their deity Lord Obama may have said it, so Trump was forced to make further statements, none of which were ever deemed good enough.
Immigration continued to be a hot topic in 2017. Some folks are still stuck on the romantic notion that anyone & everyone should be able to come to the United States seeking a better life, doing whatever they want however they choose while taking advantage of the bounty of opportunities available in America but not being held to any kind of pesky legal standards. Conversely, people with critical thinking skills understand that it’s not 1492 or 1620 or even the early 20th century. The world is very different than it was when Columbus or the pilgrims sailed here, and it’s changed dramatically since many of our great grandparents passed thru Ellis Island. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t still welcome tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free, just that there needs to be a process executed properly in order to protect our nation from those that might intend to do us harm. It seems like we’ve done a rather poor job of that the past few decades, and I’m not sure why there is such resistance to tightening the proverbial ship just a bit.
Harvey, Irma, & Jose
Hurricane Harvey decimated Houston, TX in August, causing 91 fatalities and over $125 billion in damage, making it the costliest tropical cyclone ever. Hot on its heels was Irma, which caused catastrophic damage in Bermuda, The Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, The Bahamas, Cuba, & the Florida Keys. Right after that came Jose, which tore thru The Bahamas & Bermuda, weakened a bit, then did some damage in Canada & the northeast United States.
Texas & Vegas Mass Shootings
On November 5 a mentally ill Texas man walked into the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX (not far from San Antonio) and shot 46 worshipers, killing 26 of them. The shooter had been court martialed for domestic violence while serving in the Air Force several years ago and was therefore legally prohibited from owning firearms, but a clerical error caused this not to show up in the background check. On October 1 a 64 year old former mailman went postal and shot over 600 people…SIX HUNDRED…at an outdoor country music concert from his room at the Mandalay Bay hotel. 58 people were killed, and there are still a lot of unanswered questions surrounding the tragedy. Predictably arguments about gun control ensued in the aftermath of these sad atrocities, but we all know there are more meaningful discussions that need to be had about our violent culture.
Sexual Harassment in Hollywood & Elsewhere
It all began with studio executive Harvey Weinstein back in October. A story broke in which multiple women accused Weinstein of sexual harassment and even rape. Then other women spoke out against Weinstein. Within weeks he was fired from his job and essentially banned from everything in Hollywood. And then the floodgates opened, with a plethora of famous men…actor Kevin Spacey, Today host Matt Lauer, Senator Al Franken, journalist Charlie Rose, comedian Louis CK, TV chef Mario Batali, radio legend Garrison Keillor, talk show host Tavis Smiley, Congressman John Conyers, just to name a few…suffering swift & harsh consequences after being accused of “inappropriate conduct”. How we are defining misconduct, what exactly the burden of proof should be, and whether or not there should be some kind of reasonable statute of limitations on accusations are all ongoing & fluid conversations. Everyone agrees that sexual harassment in a professional environment is wrong, but what I can’t seem to wrap my mind around is why so many people obviously knew about the alleged behavior of these creeps for so long but never said a word. There is no shortage of video & photos out there that prove that the Hollywood elite treated Weinstein like he was a swell guy for many years, so why now?? Did all of these people suddenly grow a conscience, or did it just become really easy to pile on when the alleged perpetrator was no longer in a position to put money in their pockets??
And The Sammy goes to…..
Harvey, Irma, & Jose. It comes down to numbers. Of all the big stories in 2017 these three storms combined to do so much damage, cost so much money, & affect so many people that they simply cannot be overlooked. It is important to remember that just because the news cycle moves on to other stories and these disasters are no longer in the headlines that doesn’t mean that it’s over. Entire lives are destroyed…houses gone, businesses lost, & memories washed away forever. It takes many folks months or even years to get back to any semblance of normalcy. So keep the citizen of Houston, Puerto Rico, Cuba, et al in your prayers, and if you have a few charitable dollars burning a hole in your pocket I’m pretty sure there are still entities taking donations.
To present our final award please welcome the First Daughter of the United States and a lively & bellicose former White House press secretary. Give a cordial yet pensive welcome to Ivanka Trump and Sean Spicer!! This is a special first time ever award and there is only one nominee & recipient.
Person of the Year
President Donald Trump
Some people voted for him, some people didn’t. A good many people really like him, while just as many seem to despise him with every ounce of their being. There have always been political divisions in America. Just in my lifetime Republicans have insulted, differed with, & opposed the accomplishments of Carter, Clinton, & Obama, while Democrats have belittled, thwarted, & disputed the ideas & principles of Nixon, Ford, Reagan, & two Bushes. But never have I seen a President treated with such malice by everyone from political opponents to actors & athletes to the not-even-pretending-to-be-impartial-anymore news media. Does he bring a lot of it on himself?? Probably. Donald Trump has never been a shrinking violet. He’s politically incorrect & not afraid to stand up & fight. That kind of take-no-prisoners attitude & his abrasive personality are both his greatest strength & his biggest flaw. Whether you love him or hate him, one cannot deny that President Trump was the center of attention in 2017. Entities from all walks of life were intent on derailing him from the moment he announced his candidacy a couple of years ago, but few thought of him as a serious candidate at the time. Then he went out and won the Republican nomination. Suddenly things got real very quickly, but even then the prevailing assumption was that he could not defeat Hillary Clinton in the election…until he did. Then finally he was inaugurated & took office in January 2017, and as the kids used to say, it was on like Donkey Kong. Even the inauguration was controversial, with various singers refusing to perform and disputes over the size of the crowd, as if that’s what matters to anyone with a brain. Right after the inauguration there was a Women’s March in DC where actress Ashley Judd and several others put their mental & emotional problems front & center for the world to see. There’s been an ongoing investigation trying to link Trump to alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, with no legitimate results…just the continued inane ramblings of MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and others of her ilk. Then of course there was President Trump’s attempt at a “travel ban”, something that has been done before by other Presidents but was clumsily executed by his administration and predictably mocked by the media. I stopped paying attention but I’m pretty sure repeated attempts to put the ban in place have failed. Trump is criticized for almost everything he does, and his social media presence doesn’t help. A President being able to bypass the press and take his message directly to the people on a daily basis is fairly new for everybody, and the fact that he has no filter (and apparently no one in the White House to gently steer him away from trouble) has been entertaining, though not always in a good way. I’ve also never seen so much turnover in an administration in its first year. I’m sure it’s not unprecedented for a person to accept a job at the White House or in the cabinet and then resign within a few months, but it happened A LOT in 2017. At any rate, whether you love him or hate him it is indisputable that Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States, dominated the news cycle in 2017, and for that he has earned our first ever award for Person of the Year.
actor/comedian/telethon host Jerry Lewis…Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney…legendary comedian Don Rickles…pro wrestling manager & commentator Bobby “The Brain” Heenan…sportswriter Frank DeFord…actresses Mary Tyler Moore (Ordinary People, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Erin Moran (Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi), Barbara Hale (Perry Mason), Darlene Cates (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?), Dina Merrill, Rose Marie (The Dick Van Dyke Show), Glenne Headly (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Dick Tracy, Mr. Holland’s Opus), & Ann Wedgeworth (Three’s Company)…sportscaster Dick Enberg…director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia)…game show hosts Chuck Barris (The Gong Show) & Monty Hall (Let’s Make A Deal)…pro wrestlers “Superfly” Jimmy Snuka, Chavo Guerrero Sr., George “The Animal” Steele, Nicole Bass, Ivan Koloff, “Outlaw” Ron Bass, Dennis Stamp, Matthew Anoai, Larry Sharpe, Doug Somers, Tom Zenk, & Smith Hart…actors Adam West (Batman), Bill Paxton (Weird Science, Twister, Titanic, Apollo 13), Jim Nabors (The Andy Griffith Show, Gomer Pyle USMC), Stephen Furst (Animal House, St. Elsewhere), Bernie Casey (Revenge of the Nerds, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), Richard Anderson (The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman, Forbidden Planet), Sir Roger Moore (James Bond), Miguel Ferrer (RoboCop), Harry Dean Stanton (Cool Hand Luke, The Godfather Part II, Pretty in Pink), Rance Howard (The Andy Griffith Show, Cool Hand Luke, Chinatown, Apollo 13), Earle Hyman (The Cosby Show), Mike Connors (Mannix), Richard Hatch (The Streets of San Francisco, Battlestar Galactica), Michael Parks (From Dusk til Dawn, Kill Bill), Powers Boothe (Red Dawn), Sheldon Berman (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Meet the Fockers), Jared Martin (Dallas), Peter Hansen (General Hospital), Don Pedro Colley (The Dukes of Hazzard), Joseph Bologna (My Favorite Year, Big Daddy), Jay Thomas (Cheers), John Hillerman (Magnum P.I.), Sam Shepard (The Right Stuff), John Heard (Big, Home Alone), Robert Guillaume (Benson), & Martin Landau (Ed Wood, Mission: Impossible)…basketball players Charles Shackleford (NC State) & Fab Melo (Syracuse), …musicians/singers Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Glen Campbell, Greg Allman, Mel Tillis, David Cassidy, Keely Smith, Chris Cornell (Soundgarden, Audioslave), Al Jarreau, Lonnie Brooks, John Geils (The J Geils Band), Malcolm Young (AC/DC), Don Williams, Robert Walker, Walter Becker (Steely Dan), & Chester Bennington (Linkin Park, Stone Temple Pilots)…football players Y.A. Tittle (Baltimore Colts), Quentin Moses (Miami Dolphins), Michael Jackson (Baltimore Ravens), Terry Glenn (New England Patriots), John Thierry (Chicago Bears), & Cortez Kennedy (Seattle Seahawks), …political commentator Alan Colmes…famed boxing cornerman Dr. Ferdie Pacheco…Judge Joseph Wapner (The People’s Court)…TV announcer John Harlan (Name That Tune)…legendary college basketball coaches Rollie Massimino (Villanova) & Judd Heathcote (Michigan St.)…film historian & TCM host Robert Osborne…boxing trainer Lou Duva…writers Robert Pirsig (Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), Jimmy Breslin, & Sue Grafton…pro sports executive Jerry Krause (Chicago Bulls)…former baseball players & managers Dallas Green, Don Baylor, Gene Michael, & Ruben Amaro Sr.…NBA referee Jess Kersey…radio personality & wrestling announcer Rhubarb Jones…retired football coaches Spike Dykes (Texas Tech), Frank Broyles (Arkansas), Dick MacPherson (Syracuse), Frank Kush (Arizona St.), Sonny Randle (Marshall), Babe Parilli (Pittsburgh Steelers), Joe Tiller (Purdue), Ron Meyer (New England Patriots), & Ara Parseghian (Notre Dame)…Roger Ailes (Chairman & CEO of Fox News)…Hall of Fame pitcher & former U.S. Senator Jim Bunning…former Nicaraguan dictator Manuel Noriega…retired golfer Roberto DiVincenzo…retired baseball player & broadcaster Jimmy Piersall…Playboy founder & publisher Hugh Hefner…NASCAR team owner Robert Yates…stand-up comedian Ralphie May…former NBA analyst Snapper Jones…former German Chancellor Helmut Kohl…Barbara Sinatra (wife of Frank Sinatra)…legendary horror filmmakers George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) & Tobe Hooper (Poltergeist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre)…Augusta National Golf Club chairman Hootie Johnson…baseball players Lee May, Roy Halladay, Bobby Doerr, & Darren Daulton…gossip columnist Liz Smith…comedian & civil rights activist Dick Gregory…NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer…retired boxer Jake LaMotta (on whose life Raging Bull was based)…pro wrestling announcer Lance Russell…former tennis player Jana Novotná
Merry Christmas Manoverse. It’s been a different kind of holiday season thus far. That’s not great, but it’s not bad either. The past few weeks have been low key & uneventful, yet somewhat busy-ish. I don’t like vegging out at home feeling useless too much, yet I don’t enjoy running around like a chicken with my head cut off either, so striking a balance is a nice goal. I’m not shopping as much as I usually do this time of year, for various reasons. I wish, as I’m sure many do, that I could go back to the days of childhood….or atleast to when my nephews were children…and feel the excitement that kids experience at Christmas. Instead I have more of a sense of wistful nostalgia, fondly recalling family, friends, & events that are gone and aren’t coming back. That doesn’t mean there isn’t joy or the expectation of good memories in the future, just that the equilibrium has shifted in another direction. I still get a kick out of watching holiday films, listening to Christmas music, and participating in seasonal activities at church, work, & with other groups I’m involved with, and since the weather isn’t too bad here in West Virginia I might actually set aside some time in the coming days to cruise a few of the local neighborhoods and take photos of the more impressive lights & decorations. At any rate, allow me to refresh your memory about how this Sammy Claus thing works. We’ve been doing it for eight years now and, much to my surprise, some of the presents wished for are actually granted on occasion. The mantle of Sammy Claus wields no special power. That magic belongs to The Jolly Old Elf up north. I am merely an emissary asking for certain gifts to be bestowed to a variety of entities, some of which have been quite naughty and some of whom have been very good this year. Admittedly our list usually skews toward the former rather than the latter. All I can hope for is that ol’ Kris Kringle himself is a fan of this site and agrees with my suggestions. For all who stop by and read the things that are published here, whether it be sporadically or on a regular basis, I wish you tranquility, health, love, & success during this Christmas season and for a new year on the horizon. As you are in the midst of the hustle & bustle these next several days…whether you embrace it or get caught up in it reluctantly…please do not brush aside what Christmas is about and the real reason we should celebrate, that being the birth of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ, who would eventually die for our sins so that we may have the opportunity of salvation & eternal life. God bless us…everyone.
Jimmy Kimmel & Jimmy Fallon
A harsh & rapid fall off the high horse. We know what to expect from Colbert. Conan became irrelevant several years ago. Seth Myers is a Letterman wannabe and terrible at it. Corden has never been more than a blip on the radar. It was supposed to be up to Fallon & Kimmel to carry late night television for the next couple of decades. But instead they both decided to go political, to take a big ol’ dump on half of their viewing audience. Sammy Claus stopped watching months ago, and logic dictates others likely did as well. The only solution is a fresh start.
Discretion & moderation. It seems like we may be on the verge of full blown legalization of marijuana, with opinions all over the map on the issue. Let’s just hope that folks are smart & careful. Health is wealth people.
Bible study. Sammy Claus isn’t Catholic and doesn’t put much stock in the whole Pope thing anyway, but for such an important religious figure the current Pope sure seems a lot more like a sociopolitical pundit than a man of God.
Rejuvenation & hope. Once upon a time Sammy Claus spent his college years in this biggish small southern West Virginia town bordering Ohio & Kentucky. The drug epidemic that plagues our nation these days seems especially proliferate in Huntington, with shootings & arrests almost daily. It used to be a great town, and at its heart it still is for the most part. But things have got to change quickly & significantly.
Brad’s Wife Nanette
A great new job. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, allow Sammy Claus to get you up to speed. Nanette Reid was an employee of 11 years at an Indiana Cracker Barrel before she was terminated. Nanette’s husband Brad wanted to know why his wife had been fired, so he made an inquiry on the restaurant’s corporate Facebook page…and things took off from there. #JusticeforBradsWife went viral and lives on. Here’s hoping that Brad & Nanette can rebound from the unfortunate circumstance and have a prosperous New Year.
President Donald Trump
Improved public speaking skills & a keener social media filter. A President who bypasses traditional media outlets and reaches out directly on Twitter is a new concept that everyone is still trying to wrap our minds around. However, President Trump oftentimes doesn’t do himself any favors with his tweets, an issue compounded by the fact that he’s not the most polished public speaker. Any good that his Administration may be doing for the economy or anything else is too often eclipsed by the fact that he’s not exactly the best messenger.
A renewed focus on playing basketball. Sammy Claus has never been as big of a basketball fan as he is a football & baseball fan, but this year he hasn’t watched a single second of NBA action. Why?? More social justice propagandizing. Some of the league’s biggest personalities…Lebron James, Stephen Curry, coaches Gregg Popovich & Steve Kerr…strayed away from their athletic mission to go on unnecessary sociopolitical rants that…much like late night TV comedians…alienate a huge chunk of the fanbase. Do they have a right to their opinions?? Of course. Would it be smarter to keep their yapper shut and concentrate on their jobs?? Absolutely.
Accused Sexual Harassers
Humility & respect for others. No one…male or female…should ever feel awkward in the workplace or be forced to do anything with which they are uncomfortable to keep their job or advance their career. A laundry list of powerful & well-known people have been accused of inappropriate conduct in the past few months. Matt Lauer. Harvey Weinstein. Congressman John Conyers. Mario Batali. Danny Masterson. Garrison Keillor. Charlie Rose. Senator Al Franken. Louis CK. Kevin Spacey. Most suffered swift & harsh consequences after being convicted in the court of public opinion. Will they learn from their mistakes and be better people in the future?? Can they overcome the situation and get back what they’ve lost?? Is it even proper that they have an opportunity for redemption?? Those are unanswered questions than only time will resolve.
Alleged Sexual Harassment Victims
Courage & integrity. On the flip side of the inappropriate conduct equation are the alleged victims. Every case is different, and in some instances the aggressors have admitted to the transgressions. They know they were wrong and are just going to take their lumps & swallow the bitter pill of reaping what they’ve sown. However, there are still many questions and reasons to doubt the validity of some of the claims. For example, why does it take an alleged victim several years to come forward?? Sammy Claus grew up with & has been surrounded by women who not only would have immediately reported such perverse behavior, but likely would have kicked a guy in the cahonas for…as Grandma Claus used to say…”getting fresh”. For a “victim” to all the sudden…after 3 or 5 or 10 or 20 years…start making accusations out of the blue somehow feels a little…off. Also, in many of these cases it has become apparent that a good amount of people knew all about the disturbing behavior being exhibited by the alleged creep, yet no one said anything?? That too seems odd. It calls into question how bad the behavior really was. If entire groups of people just shrugged it off for years then perhaps it wasn’t a big deal and mountains are now being made of mole hills. We need to know exactly how “inappropriate conduct” is being defined. Certainly societal norms evolve over time, but are these men losing their livelihood over what used to be called flirting?? Are mere words enough to implode a human being’s entire life now?? Or do these allegations involve seriously hideous…possibly criminal…activities?? And what about the ethical responsibility of an employer?? If “everyone knew” but no one did anything about it until throwing the hammer down became the cool thing to do, then doesn’t that make the company somewhat guilty?? In some of these situations people lost their jobs seemingly overnight. No investigation. No suspension. Just here one day & gone the next. That doesn’t feel right either. “Blaming the victim” is commonly thought to be improper, but when people’s careers & reputations are at stake it is just as wrong to automatically take someone’s word without a thorough examination of the facts. It’s too late for those that have already been caught up in the massive takedown, but maybe we ought to have a conversation about how to fairly proceed in the future.
The Mainstream Media
Sodium pentothal. It is undeniable that the news media has had a leftist bias pretty much its entire existence. However, it used to be fairly subtle. Not anymore. As a matter of fact, most television & print news outlets in America are almost pure propaganda now, the kind that has existed in places like Russia & The Middle East for decades. They don’t even try to hide their agenda anymore, and it’s pathetic.
Marriage, motherhood, & domestic bliss. Lost in the shuffle amidst the hype of Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s premature retirement from NASCAR was Patrick’s announcement that she plans on racing in the 2018 Indianapolis 500 and then moving on to the next phase of her life. Her career on the track has never quite lived up to the marketing machine that she became, but she’s easy on the eyes and someone that most fans couldn’t help rooting for. No matter how much the PC crowd tries to push “equality” and the idea that anything a man can do a woman can do atleast equally as well (and vice versa), the fact is that men & women are different entities with unique strengths & weaknesses. Danica Patrick’s career was never going to be long or legendary for a variety for reasons, but she can walk away with immense pride in what she accomplished and look forward to a happy life beyond race car driving.
A renewed focus on telling great stories & entertaining the masses. Speaking of propaganda, Hollywood is simply the “entertainment” wing of the same insidious machine that promotes deviance, hatred, & a victim mentality. A psychologist could probably explain whether the chicken or the egg comes first. Is there something about fame & fortune that causes people to go completely off the rails?? Or are ignorant, vile, mentally ill people more inclined to end up in the entertainment industry?? Whatever it is, those of a certain age can easily recall when going to the movies, listening to music, or watching television was engaging, intellectually stimulating, inspiring, and a perfectly valid way to spend downtime & discretionary income. Sadly now it’s mostly about pushing an agenda, endorsing sociopolitical talking points, & indoctrinating an unsuspecting audience.
The Supreme Court
2 or 3 more retirements. Justice Gorsuch is a nice replacement for the late Antonin Scalia, but there’s still work to be done. President Trump might get a second term in 2020…but then again he may not. In whatever time he has remaining in office it would be fantastic if Trump could make sure The Court leans in the right direction for a couple of decades, and to do that we need to see people like 84 year old Ruth Bader Ginsburg & 79 year old Stephen Breyer step away from the job. Who wants 80 year olds making such important & impactful decisions anyway??
IPhone X Buyers
Insurance & a cushioned carrying case. A $1000 phone made of glass that contains intrusive facial recognition technology?? No thanks.
The New York Yankees
A mundane season. The revered Bronx Bombers are at it again, flaunting their deep coffers and using grander-than-most resources in an attempt to buy another championship. It’s certainly not an illegal or unethical strategy. Indeed it is well within the rules of MLB. But the majority of sports fans tend to cheer for an underdog…the little engine that could. There’s nothing inspiring about a team who is simply able to outspend everyone else, especially one who already has more than twice as many World Series trophies as any other club. It is much more gratifying to watch an organization build & progress organically. The Yankees make it too easy for the masses to hope they crash & burn.
Civil War Statues
Continued existence. Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. No one is saying slavery was okay. However, these monuments were erected for a reason. Attempts to sanitize history in a misguided fit of political correctness are foolish.
Per established custom I shall end with the traditional quote from the Rankin-Bass animated classic Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town:
“Lots of unhappiness? Maybe so. But doesn’t Santa take a little bit of that unhappiness away? Doesn’t a smile on Christmas morning scratch out a tear cried on a sadder day? Not much maybe. But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa and learned to give as only he can give…of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts? Maybe we could all learn Santa’s beautiful lesson and maybe there would finally be peace on Earth and good will toward men.”