The most amazing thing for me is that every single person who sees a movie brings a whole set of unique experiences. Through careful manipulation & good storytelling you can get everybody to clap at the same time, to hopefully laugh at the same time, and to be afraid at the same time. – Steven Spielberg
“Stay tuned for the Top 10…coming…soon-ish.” That’s what I said at the end of the previous installment of this series…a little over a year ago. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but this isn’t the time to dive down that rabbit hole. At this moment I just want to finish what I started way back in October 2019. As I’m sure you’ll want a little refresher please check out how we got to this point by going here, here, here, here, & here. It’s good to be back.
10 Forrest Gump (Forrest Gump)
An unnamed person, in a conversation with legendary college football coach Bear Bryant, describes the titular character in 1994’s Best Picture simply & succinctly as “a local idiot”. Of course he is so much more. It is my understanding that the film is significantly different in tone from the book it is based on, but either way it is a flight of fancy in which the aforementioned idiot finds himself in a number of inexplicable situations, from playing college football at Alabama to becoming a war hero to blowing the whistle on Watergate burglars to owning his own shrimping business. Forrest isn’t completely oblivious, and he has a level of common sense that would be the envy of many real life individuals nowadays. He loves his Mama and meets his girl Jenny in grade school, although it takes her a few decades to return his affection. Those two ladies are all he really cares about until he gets to Vietnam and meets his buddy Bubba, whose life is cut tragically short, and Lt. Dan, who eventually becomes his best friend & business partner. Tom Hanks won his second consecutive Academy Award for Best Actor for the role, and we all should be thankful he got the part after John Travolta, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Sean Penn all allegedly passed on it.
“Mama always said ‘Life is like a box of chocolates…you never know what you’re gonna get’.”
“Jenny and me was like peas & carrots.”
“Mama says stupid is as stupid does.”
“I never went back to work for Lieutenant Dan, though he did take care of my Bubba-Gump money. He got me invested in some kind of fruit company. And so then I got a call from him saying we don’t have to worry about money no more. And I said ‘That’s good…one less thing’.”
“I’m not a smart man, but I know what love is.”
“I don’t know if Mama was right or if it’s Lt. Dan. I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I think maybe it’s both happening at the same time.”
9 Dorothy Gale (The Wizard of Oz)
Judy Garland was 16 years old when she portrayed Dorothy in the 1939 classic, which was an annual television tradition when I was a kid (a quaint notion these days). Garland starred in dozens of films in a career that spanned four decades (remarkable when you considered she passed on at the young age of 47), but she’ll always be remembered as Dorothy, a Kansas farm girl who gets caught in a tornado and either has a really cool dream or actually goes to a fantasy land called Oz, depending on one’s interpretation of the movie. L. Frank Baum wrote 14 novels about Oz, which means that we missed out on a bunch of potential sequels. I guess Hollywood did business a whole lot different back then. At any rate, Garland’s talents as a singer & actress, as well as her youthful innocence, made her the perfect choice for the role.
“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
“Lions, and tigers, and bears! Oh my!”
“There’s no place like home.”
8 Batman, Superman, & Spider-Man (various films)
I’m not a comic book guy…never was, even as a little boy. However, superheroes are such a ubiquitous part of the pop culture landscape that there are plenty of ways to become familiar with and be entertained by the plethora of adventures they engage in. Though it might be a fun debate I am fairly certain that most would consider the Big Three superheroes to be Batman, Superman, & Spider-Man. My particular favorite has always been Batman, precisely for the reason that some question his status as a superhero at all. He’s not an alien. His body hasn’t been genetically altered in any way. He doesn’t have any kind of magic powers. Batman is simply a mega rich business mogul who has dedicated his life to vigilante justice because he is psychologically damaged after watching his parents get murdered when he was a little boy. I dare you to come up with cooler origin story. Superman is an “undocumented worker” from the planet Krypton whose spaceship lands in Kansas. After growing up on the farm he becomes a big city reporter, but when he takes his glasses off & uses a phone booth to change into his red caped costume he becomes indestructible, has x-ray vision, and can fly. Spider-Man is a typical American teenager who is bitten by a radioactive spider and develops all kinds of cool powers, including the ability to shoot webs from his wrist that help him to scale tall buildings & fly. He decides to use his unique skills to bring bad guys to justice after his Uncle Ben is shot by a street thug. Our three superheroes have starred in dozens of movies & TV shows. My favorite big screen Caped Crusader was portrayed by Michael Keaton in the late 80s Tim Burton films. As far as I’m concerned the late Christopher Reeve will always embody Superman. And though I am pretty fond of Tobey Maguire’s version of Spider-Man from a couple of decades ago I have to say that the current incarnation as presented by the Marvel Cinematic Universe is quite entertaining.
“Maybe that’s what Batman is about. Not winning, but failing and getting back up. Knowing he’ll fail, fail a thousand times, but still won’t give up.” – Batman
“No matter where you go in life there’s always going to be the one person that wants to bring you down, so stay strong and face your problems instead of running away.” – Superman
“Not everyone is meant to make a difference. But for me, the choice to lead an ordinary life is no longer an option.” – Spiderman
7 Gordon Gekko (Wall Street)
Gordon Gekko represents a moment in time, or atleast some people’s perspective of that particular era. Were the 1980s a Decade of Greed, wherein the populace engaged in intense levels of conspicuous consumption?? Certainly pop culture embraced that mythology, with TV shows like Dallas & Dynasty and movies ranging from Trading Places & Arthur to Scarface & St. Elmo’s Fire. Yuppies drinking Perrier on their yachts while constantly checking in with their stock broker were a popular stereotype. Class warfare was encouraged. Did any of that have a legit connection to the real world?? Certainly the economy was robust in the 80s, but as a kid in small town West Virginia I never encountered those kinds of people. Unlike preconceived notions of Appalachia our family wore shoes, had indoor plumbing, & didn’t have vehicles on blocks in our front yard, yet we definitely weren’t wealthy. At any rate, even if folks like Gordon Gekko were rare Michael Douglas made him seem very real, sort of cool, & really interesting. His return in the 2010 sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps probably came about a decade too late, but it was still fun to see him onscreen again.
“The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”
“What’s worth doing is worth doing for money.”
“Gimme guys who are poor, smart, & hungry. And no feelings. You win some, you lose some, but you keep on fighting. And if you need a friend, get a dog.”
“I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies & gentlemen, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all its forms: greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind.”
“It’s a zero sum game. Somebody wins, somebody loses. Money itself isn’t lost or made, it’s simply transferred from one perception to another. Like magic.”
“You got 99% of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it.”
6 Marty McFly & Doc Brown (The Back to the Future Trilogy)
I don’t think there’s any way to separate the pair. They are peanut butter & jelly, Bert & Ernie, peas & carrots…one without the other just isn’t right. I am a huge fan of the Back to the Future Trilogy. I assume most people have some level of familiarity with the franchise, but just in case I’ll refresh your memory. Marty is a typical California teen in the 1980s with a family that he finds slightly embarrassing. Dr. Emmett Brown is an eccentric scientist who builds a time machine out of a DeLorean. Marty accidentally gets sent back in time to the 1950s, inadvertently screws up the space-time continuum, jeopardizing his parents relationship and therefore his own existence. It’s pretty heavy. Throughout three very entertaining films Doc & Marty take us from the 1980s to the 1950s to the 21st Century and even the Old West. Michael J. Fox wasn’t even the original Marty, but when actor Eric Stoltz just didn’t click in the role he was replaced, and thank God for that. BTTF is just the right mix of fun, adventure, suspense, & romance, and Doc & Marty are the centerpiece.
“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious shit.” (Doc)
“Whoa, wait a minute, Doc. Are you trying to tell me that my mother has got the hots for me?” (Marty)
“Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the Earth’s gravitational pull?” (Doc)
“I guess you guys aren’t ready for that, yet. But your kids are gonna love it.” (Marty)
“Great Scott!” (Doc)
“So, you’re my Uncle Joey. Better get used to these bars, kid.” (Marty)
“Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.” (Doc)
“Time traveling is just too dangerous. Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women.” (Doc)
“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it, so make it a good one.” (Doc)
5 Rocky Balboa (The Rocky Series)
When ranking my favorite sports films several years ago I opined that Rocky redefined the genre. It was the first sports movie to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (only two others have achieved that feat since) and was actually written by Sylvester Stallone. Hollywood power brokers wanted a known entity like James Caan or Burt Reynolds to play the lead because at the time, in the mid-1970s, Stallone was a nobody. The fact that Stallone not only got the part but received an Oscar nomination and created an iconic character in the process actually mirrors the plot of the film. I like the other actors considered for the role just fine, but Stallone portrays Rocky in such a way that we see ourselves in him. He’s not rich or successful. He isn’t a well-spoken intellectual. He’s just a guy from the neighborhood doing what he can to get by and chasing a dream in his spare time. The fact that he succeeds (eventually) and builds a great life for himself & his family gives the rest of us hope that we can do the same.
“She’s got gaps, I got gaps. Together, we fill gaps.”
“Yo Adrian! I did it!!’
“If I can change, and you can change, everybody can change!”
“The world ain’t all sunshine & rainbows. It’s a very mean & nasty place, and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
4 Darth Vader (The Star Wars Series)
Has there ever been a more iconic cinematic badass?? The costume. The mask. The voice. Put Vader in a cage with Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers, and any other lunatic in the history of film and I’m guessing he’d hold his own. The question is, did the prequels ruin his story?? Aside from the weak writing and poor casting that lessened the impact of the prequel trilogy I’m going to say no…Darth Vader is still Darth Vader. I view Anakin Skywalker as a different character altogether. At the end of Rogue One (a criminally underappreciated film that’s better than any of the prequels) Vader has a brief yet effectual appearance that’ll make the hair on your neck stand up, but nothing beats that moment in The Empire Strikes Back when he drops the biggest truth bomb ever on Luke Skywalker. That scene is still quoted & parodied more than four decades later, which is quite a legacy.
“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
“Join me, and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict, and bring order to the galaxy.”
“I am your father! Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father & son!”
“Obi-Wan has taught you well.”
“You under estimate the power of the dark side. If you will not fight, then you will meet your destiny!”
3 Rick Blaine (Casablanca)
Do men like Rick even exist anymore?? Cool. Smart. Pragmatic. Mysterious. Debonair. A rare mix of romantic & jaded. He’s the kind of guy that makes women swoon yet men can’t help but respect & admire. His aloof demeanor hides a principled heart of gold. He owns a nightclub in Morocco that people flock to during WWII to forget about war for awhile. People from all walks of life & all nationalities (including Nazis) are welcome at Rick’s Cafe Americain because he’s a businessman who’ll gladly take anybody’s money. Perhaps men like Rick don’t exist anymore because they never did in the first place. Rick Blaine is an idealistic notion of what a man should be, and there are worse characters one could emulate.
“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”
“I stick my neck out for nobody.”
“When it comes to women, you’re a true Democrat.”
“I don’t mind a parasite. I object to a cut-rate one.”
“I’m not fighting for anything anymore except myself. I’m the only cause I’m interested in.”
“If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not with him, you’ll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life. We’ll always have Paris. I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Here’s looking at you, kid.”
“Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
2 Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
It is rare that an attorney is viewed as a role model even in fiction, but Atticus Finch is the ultimate quixotic fantasy. Not only is he the most virtuous lawyer ever, but he’s the epitome of a perfect father. Modern audiences tend to prefer anti-heroes, or atleast a flawed protagonist in which we recognize our own imperfections and soothe ourselves with the notion that it’s okay to be a little messed up. We scoff at ideals like integrity, honor, ethics, loyalty, & altruism. That being said, is it really that bad to have such a measuring stick in our fiction?? On top of all that let me remind you of something I stated two years ago when we began this journey: “the value of a character’s name cannot be overstated”. How cool & memorable is the name Atticus Finch?? As usual I urge everyone to read To Kill A Mockingbird. It is one of my favorite books and most agree it is amongst the finest novels ever written. But we are discussing movie characters here, right?? The book had already won the 1962 Pulitzer Prize, so adapting it into a film just a year later had to have been a daunting task. Gregory Peck had already been nominated for four Academy Awards in the 1940s, so the powers-that-be knew what they were doing. It turned out better than anyone could have ever dreamed, with Peck beating out Burt Lancaster, Jack Lemmon, & Peter O’Toole to win his only Oscar.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
“In this country our courts are the great levelers. In our courts all men are created equal. I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and of our jury system…that’s no ideal to me. That is a living, working reality.”
“I remember when my Daddy gave me that gun. He told me that I should never point it at anything in the house, and that he’d rather I’d shoot at tin cans in the backyard. But he said that sooner or later he supposed the temptation to go after birds would be too much, and that I could shoot all the blue jays I wanted, if I could hit ’em, but to remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird. Mockingbirds don’t do anything but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat people’s gardens, don’t nest in the corncribs. They don’t do one thing but just sing their hearts out for us.”
1 Michael Corleone (The Godfather Trilogy)
We’ve reached the pinnacle, and I am contradicting myself one last time…or am I?? When discussing Pacino’s portrayal of Lt. Col. Frank Slade I opined that, while The Godfather is his best film, Slade is his best performance. I stand by that because there is a difference. Michael Corleone is a much more memorable character, especially since he has an entire trilogy to impact our pop culture consciousness. That influence is made all the more impressive when considering the fact that Pacino shares the screen with Marlon Brando & James Caan in the original film, Part 2 is focused on Robert Deniro’s depiction of young Vito Corleone, and so many people despise Part 3 (I don’t hate it). But the one constant flowing thru all three Godfather films is Michael Corleone. He is introduced as a young war hero in a new romance, then reluctantly gets pulled into the family business. Finding that he has a knack for ruthlessness Michael evolves into a stone cold killer and merciless husband, even having his own brother murdered. As he grows old & ill he becomes consumed with regret and concerned with his legacy, his story ending with one of the more depressing deaths in cinema. The evolution of Michael Corleone is well written & performed and remarkably sad.
“My father made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. Luca Brasi held a gun to his head and my father assured him that either his brains or his signature would be on the contract. That’s a true story. That’s my family, Kay. It’s not me.”
‘It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.’
“Don’t ever take sides with anyone against the family again, ever.”
“Today, I settle all family business, so don’t tell me you’re innocent because it insults my intelligence. It makes me very angry.”
“I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!”
“My father taught me many things here. He taught me to keep your friends close but your enemies closer.”
“You’re nothing to me now. You’re not a brother, you’re not a friend. I don’t want to know you or what you do. I don’t want to see you at the hotels. I don’t want you near my house. When you see our mother, I want to know a day in advance so I won’t be there.”
“Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment.”
“I command this family, right or wrong. It was not what I wanted!”
“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”
A film is…or should be …more like music than fiction. It should be a progression of moods & feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later. – Stanley Kubrick
If you need to catch up with the first three parts of this series please go here, here, & here.
I decided to run some numbers because I’m nerdy like that. It surprises me how well balanced these rankings are when it comes to representation from the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and classics produced before I was born. What doesn’t surprise me is just how few characters from movies in the first couple of decades of this century made the cut. I’m not sure if that is a reflection on the subpar quality of newer films, the fact that they haven’t had time to really get a deep hold on our pop culture consciousness yet, or simply a manifestation of the singular entertainment taste of a middle-aged guy in flyover country. It’s probably all of the above. At any rate, enjoy!!
39 Ron Burgundy (Anchorman)
Will Ferrell is a polarizing comedic actor…either you enjoy his shtick or you hate it. I happen to find Ferrell amusing, although his film career has been decidedly uneven. Old School, Elf, Step Brothers, & Talladega Nights are hilarious, while Bewitched, The Campaign, Holmes & Watson, and The House failed miserably. Perhaps Ferrell’s greatest contribution to pop culture is his embodiment of news anchor Ron Burgundy. Though it is never stated when the storyline is set there are many indicators that it is in the 1970’s, making Burgundy a throwback of sorts, an hysterically exaggerated interpretation of a bygone era. Burgundy is pompous, misogynistic, vain, & mostly clueless, but he is good at his job. When he is forced to welcome a woman to his news team he doesn’t take it well and hilarity ensues. It’s the type of silly humor that kind of flies above the head of some, but if you get it you’ll be quite entertained. Ferrell throws himself completely into becoming Ron Burgundy, to the point that nearly everything he’s done afterward has paled in comparison. An Anchorman sequel was produced eight years after the original, but it couldn’t live up to its predecessor.
“Discovered by the Germans in 1904, they named it San Diego, which of course in German means ‘a whale’s vagina.”
“Great Odin’s raven!”
“The only way to bag a classy lady is to give her two tickets to the gun show and see if she likes the goods.”
“I don’t know how to put this but I’m kind of a big deal. I’m very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.”
“I am going to have three fingers of Glenlivet with a little bit of pepper, and some cheese.”
“It’s quite pungent. It’s a formidable scent. It stings the nostrils…in a good way.”
“Well, I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era.”
“I’m in a glass case of emotion!”
“You are a smelly pirate hooker. Why don’t you go back to your home on Whore Island?”
“It’s so damn hot!! Milk was a bad choice!!”
“I won’t be able to make it fellas. Veronica & I trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging. it might be a soft j. I’m not sure but apparently you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.”
“You stay classy, San Diego.”
38 Biff Tannen (The Back to the Future Trilogy)
When actor/comedian Thomas Wilson first moved to Los Angeles to begin his career in entertainment he was roommates with Andrew Dice Clay & Yakov Smirnoff. That has nothing to do with anything in particular, but I find it amusing. Decades after co-staring in all three BTTF films Wilson began to tire of incessant & tedious questions from fans about them so he wrote Biff’s Question Song, which is quite funny (you can find it on YouTube). At any rate, Biff is a classic high school bully who…at different times (literally)…makes life tough for both George McFly & his son Marty. In BTTF 2 we get a glimpse of the future (October 21, 2015 was the future back in the early 90’s) wherein Biff…with a little help from a sports almanac…is a filthy rich tyrant running roughshod over Hill Valley, and there have been indications that Future Biff was based on Donald Trump. Personally I think that’s a bunch of poppycock, a narrative crafted by some because it just so happens to fit in a really vague way. Biff appears in various forms throughout the trilogy. In BTTF 2 there is an older version of Biff alongside his grandson Griff, and in BTTF 3, which takes place in The Old West, Marty & Doc are tormented by Biff’s ancestor Mad Dog Tannen, who is sort of a Jesse James-esque outlaw. In all his incarnations Biff is the quintessential comedic bad guy, someone we immensely enjoy seeing get his just deserts.
“Why don’t you make like a tree and get outta here?”
It can’t be easy acting with an imaginary rabbit, but that’s exactly what James Stewart does in Harvey. Elwood is a nice enough fellow, but his insistence on treating his pal Harvey as a real creature drives his family nuts. Though Elwood is fond of the drink and hangs out in a bar no one is sure if his…friendship…with Harvey is a result of that proclivity or if he truly is mentally ill. Through a series of misunderstandings & classic farce it is Elwood’s sister that ends up institutionalized, but then the hunt commences for Elwood himself. By the end of the film Elwood has convinced the doctor of Harvey’s existence and his sister decides she’d rather her brother remain…eccentric…than become “normal” thru treatment. Stewart received his fourth Academy Award nomination for Best Actor but lost to José Ferrer for his role in Cyrano de Bergerac.
“Well, I’ve wrestled with reality for 35 years and I’m happy to state I finally won out over it.”
“I always have a wonderful time, wherever I am, whoever I’m with.”
“That’s envy, my dear. There’s a little bit of envy in the best of us. That’s too bad, isn’t it?”
“You see, science has overcome time & space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time & space…but any objections.”
36 The Joker (multiple films)
The Joker is Batman’s oldest & fiercest rival, making his debut in the inaugural comic book way back in 1940. Since then he has appeared in every medium that The Caped Crusader has, including multiple animated & live action films. His backstory & certain details vary in all of those movies, but he is usually depicted as a psychopath with a bleach white face, bright red lips that form a grotesque smile, & green hair. Though the origins may differ The Joker is most often a “normal” guy who somehow becomes disfigured then descends into madness. He doesn’t seem to have any kind of extraordinary abilities…he’s just really smart, completely sadistic, & batshit crazy (pun unintended). By far my favorite Joker is Jack Nicholson’s turn in Tim Burton’s 1989 Batman. Nicholson should have received an Oscar nomination for his performance, but had to settle for a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical. He faced stiff competition from Morgan Freeman (Driving Miss Daisy), Billy Crystal (When Harry Met Sally), Michael Douglas (The War of the Roses), & Steve Martin (Parenthood), with Freeman ultimately taking home the prize. Heath Ledger did win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his take on The Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Though the performance is undeniably stellar my feeling has always been that it is more fondly regarded in the wake of Ledger’s tragic death than it otherwise may have been. I have not seen Jared Leto’s Joker in 2016’s Suicide Squad or Joaquin Phoenix in Joker, which is currently in theaters, though I expect that I’ll catch both on video sometime in the future. Whatever one’s particular favorite might be the fact is that The Joker is a cornerstone supervillain in comic book films and an unforgettable character no matter who portrays him or what kind of spin they put on the story.
“Wait ’til they get a load of me!” (Batman 1989)
“I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger. (The Dark Knight)
“You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?” (Batman 1989)
“I’m not a monster. I’m just ahead of the curve.” (The Dark Knight)
“Can somebody tell me what kind of a world we live in where a man dressed up as a bat gets all of my press?? This town needs an enema!” (Batman 1989)
“Introduce a little anarchy…upset the established order, and everything becomes chaos. I’m an agent of chaos.” (The Dark Knight)
“Never rub another man’s rhubarb!” (Batman 1989)
“I’m a man of simple tastes. I like dynamite & gunpowder… and gasoline! Do you know what all of these things have in common? They’re cheap!” (The Dark Knight)
“I do what other people only dream…I make art until someone dies. I am the world’s first fully functioning homicidal artist.” (Batman 1989)
35 The Dude (The Big Lebowski)
His name is Jeffrey Lebowski, and that’s important because the crux of the film is mistaken identity. The bad guys are actually after the other Jeffrey Lebowski, an elderly millionaire whose wife screwed them out of some money. The plot is a comedic heist farce that is strangely fun, but honestly the characters & their interactions are what one remembers about the movie. The Dude is a middle-aged, unemployed slacker who spends his days smoking pot and his nights bowling, drinking a lot of White Russians along the way. He has a really laid back devil-may-care attitude, though he seems to be fairly intelligent & insightful. Needless to say, the action-packed drama he becomes involved in thanks to the other Lebowski is in direct contrast to The Dude’s normally easygoing lifestyle, which makes the movie an interesting twist on the fish-out-of-water formula. It actually inspired an entire philosophy called Dudeism , which advocates & encourages the practice of “going with the flow”, “being cool headed”, and “taking it easy” in the face of life’s difficulties, believing that this is the only way to live in harmony with our inner nature and the challenges of interacting with other people. Dudeism aims to assuage feelings of inadequacy that arise from society’s emphasis on achievement & personal fortune, alternatively encouraging a preference for simple pleasures like bathing, bowling, & hanging out with friends. Louisville, KY began hosting an annual Lebowski Fest in 2002, and several other cities have followed suit, including London, England.
“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.”
“Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
“I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.”
“Yeah, well – The Dude abides.”
“This is a very complicated case. You know, a lotta ins, lotta outs, lotta what-have-you’s. And, uh, lotta 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.”
34 Bluto Blutarsky (Animal House)
John Belushi died way too young at the age of 33 in 1982. He only starred in eight movies after being one of SNL’s original Not Ready for Primetime Players for four seasons, but amongst those far too few films are Animal House & The Blues Brothers, both of which remain irrefutable comedy classics four decades later. When I attended college in the early 90’s I joined a fraternity hoping it would be half as much fun as Animal House. My brothers & I were better students than the party animals of Delta Tau Chi and not quite as rowdy, but we had fun and were certainly inspired to a degree by the movie. With the exception of a cameo by the legendary Donald Sutherland. Belushi was the biggest star in the film, even though Bluto probably has less dialogue than most of the cast. Bluto provides a unique brand of physical comedy, a prime example of using the fat dumpy guy for laughs. Belushi could get a chuckle out of the audience simply by the way he moved or even with just facial expressions. One of Animal House’s most celebrated scenes is the food fight in the cafeteria, but go back & watch…we only see about two seconds of the actual food fight. What makes it memorable are Belushi’s actions leading up to it, and he barely says anything.
“See if you can guess what I am now. I’m a zit. Get it?”
“What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! And it ain’t over now. ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough . . . the tough get goin’! Who’s with me? Let’s go!”
“My advice to you is to start drinking heavily.”
33 The Shark (Jaws)
One could argue that The Shark is the real star of Steven Spielberg’s 1975 classic. What’s really interesting is the behind-the-scenes stories wherein we learn about all the issues cast & crew faced while filming. One of the biggest problems was the mechanical shark (which they named Bruce), which regularly malfunctioned. This forced Spielberg to retool the script and altered Jaws from what would have been a straight up horror movie to more of a suspenseful Hitchcockian experience. For example, in the opening scene the shark was originally supposed to be seen fully devouring a late night swimmer, but instead what we got was the woman being dragged underwater kicking & screaming by some unknown force. Limited usage of the mechanical shark makes the moments that we do see the creature that much more impactful, and that arguably created a better film. I was frightened for years by the idea of sharks after seeing Jaws (it didn’t help that I was probably 7 or 8 years old the first time I saw it), and even now I have zero interest in swimming in the ocean. Multiple sequels followed the original Jaws, to the point that it became a joke in 1989’s Back to the Future Part II (Jaws 19…this time it’s really, really, really personal!! lol). Even though none of those sequels lived up to the original and only served to soil its legacy we shouldn’t forget that the first one is a truly great movie, in no small part thanks to its scary lead character.
32 Hannibal Lecter (Silence of the Lambs)
Speaking of scary…
Sir Anthony Hopkins’ interpretation of Dr. Lecter is legendarily disturbing, a role for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor. Hannibal “The Cannibal” is a forensic psychiatrist who also happens to be a serial killer, which actually makes a lot of sense. After landing in prison he is consulted by the FBI when they’re trying to track down other psychopaths, and in Silence he is interviewed by young agent Clarice Starling, who is on the trail of serial killer Buffalo Bill. Despite his homicidal tendencies Dr. Lecter is a well-to-do, culturally refined man with erudite tastes in food, wine, music, & art. The dichotomy is a large part of what makes the character so fascinating. Like it or not we all have pre-conceived notions & tend to put folks in neat little boxes, and typically we don’t think of brilliant & sophisticated people as murderers, although when one really ponders the idea it’s much more logical that an intelligent individual with financial means would get away with such crimes than a stupid and/or poor person. Hopkins portrayed Lecter in Silence as well as prequel Red Dragon and sequel Hannibal. I have read all three books, but didn’t see the prequel & only watched bits & pieces of the sequel (it wasn’t good at all). It is my understanding that another prequel book & film…Hannibal Rising…was produced as well, but I guess I wasn’t paying attention.
“A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”
“We begin by coveting what we see every day. Don’t you feel eyes moving over your body, Clarice? And don’t your eyes seek out the things you want?”
“Well, Clarice, have the lambs stopped screaming? Don’t bother with a trace, I won’t be on long enough. I have no plans to call on you, Clarice. The world’s more interesting with you in it. So you take care now to extend me the same courtesy. I do wish we could chat longer, but I’m having an old friend for dinner. Bye.”
31 Jake & Elwood Blues (The Blues Brothers)
The Blues Brothers first appeared on an episode of Saturday Night Live on January 17, 1976. Well…kind of. The sketch was actually called “Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band” and had John Belushi singing while Dan Aykroyd played harmonica…both dressed in bee costumes. Aykroyd had long been an aficionado of blues music and turned Belushi into a huge fan as well. Aykroyd owned a bar in New York and the duo used to sing blues music there at SNL after parties. They came up with the idea for a band, complete with fictional backstories, which went out on the road and produced an album in 1978 called Briefcase Full of Blues, recorded live when The Blues Brothers were the opening act for comedian Steve Martin. A few months before that they had made their official SNL debut. The film came along in 1980 and was the tenth highest grossing movie of the year (ranked above it: The Empire Strikes Back, Airplane!, Coal Miner’s Daughter, and Smokey & The Bandit 2, just to name a few). The whole idea of the two characters’ having a quite detailed background then forming a very real band that performed concerts and made a hit record before a movie was even made is pure genius. Their music & outfits contribute tremendously to the full effect, which adds up to The Blues Brothers still being a part of the pop culture zeitgeist four decades later. Belushi’s untimely death is sad for many reasons, but one of them has to be the fact that we probably would have gotten one or two more Blues Brothers flicks. We did get a sequel in 1998 called Blues Brothers 2000 in which John Goodman stepped into the void as Mighty Mac Blues, but it just didn’t have the same appeal as the original.
“Are you the police? “No, ma’am. We’re musicians.” (Elwood)
“Yes! Yes! Jesus H. tap-dancing Christ… I have seen the light!!” (Jake)
“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark, and we’re wearing sunglasses.” (Elwood)
“Four fried chickens and a Coke.” (Jake)
“We’re on a mission from God.” (Elwood)
“I hate Illinois Nazis!” (Jake)
“We’re so glad to see so many of you lovely people here tonight. And we would especially like to welcome all the representatives of Illinois’s law enforcement community who have chosen to join us here in the Palace Hotel Ballroom at this time. We do sincerely hope you all enjoy the show. And please remember, people, that no matter who you are and what you do to live, thrive and survive, there are still some things that make us all the same. You. Me. Them. Everybody. “ (Elwood)
30 Professor Severus Snape (The Harry Potter Series)
Alan Rickman had an interesting career. He was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company, but didn’t find mass success until his 40’s after starring as terrorist Hans Gruber in the classic Christmas caper Die Hard. More than a decade later he became popular with the sci-fi nerd crowd after starring in Galaxy Quest. Then a few years after that he really hit the jackpot when the Harry Potter series was translated to film. To call Professor Snape complicated would be a vast understatement. His story plays out in seven films in the course of a decade, and we’re never quite sure whose side he is on. Is he a faithful servant of the dark Lord Voldemort?? Or is he a double agent whose true allegiance lies with Professor Albus Dumbledore?? We eventually learn that Snape was a classmate of Harry’s parents James & Lily Potter, and that Snape loved Lily but was pretty much bullied by James & his pal Sirius Black. At one time Snape was one of Voldemort’s Deatheaters, but switched allegiances in an effort to protect Lily. His feelings toward Harry are complex, a mix of the animosity he felt toward the boy’s father & the affection he had for the boy’s mother, but ultimately it is revealed that much of what he did over the years was meant to save Harry’s life. It is a tribute to Rickman’s immense talent that Snape’s screen presence is so cold, acerbic, arrogant, & borderline cruel yet retains a sense of mystery & vulnerability. Credit must be given to author JK Rowling for creating such a complex character, but we all know that a great book doesn’t always evolve into a great movie, and while I still like the Potter books much more than the movies it must be said that Rickman’s portrayal of Snape isn’t one of the reasons why.
“Control your emotions. Discipline your mind!!
“I don’t expect you will really understand the beauty of the softly simmering cauldron with its shimmering fumes, the delicate power of liquids that creep through human veins, bewitching the mind, ensnaring the senses… I can teach you how to bottle fame, brew glory, even stopper death — if you aren’t as big a bunch of dunderheads as I usually have to teach.”
“You dare use my own spells against me, Potter? Yes, I’m the Half-Blood Prince.”
“The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal. Fighting them is like fighting a many-headed monster, which, each time a neck is severed, sprouts a head even fiercer and cleverer than before. You are fighting that which is unfixed, mutating, indestructible.”
“It may have escaped your notice, but life isn’t fair.”
29 The Cowardly Lion, The Tin Man, & The Scarecrow (The Wizard of Oz)
I seem to recall that when I was a child The Wizard of Oz was offered as a special television presentation once a year. That idea seems quaint now when we can watch almost anything we want anytime we choose, especially old movies. Author L. Frank Baum actually wrote a series of 14 Oz books in the first two decades of the 20th century, but the beloved 1939 film is based on the original book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. It was one of ten nominees for Best Picture (a field that included Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Goodbye Mr. Chipps, Of Mice & Men, and the winner – Gone with the Wind). One can choose to view Oz many different ways, but I’ll leave it to people much smarter than me to do that kind of analysis. Taken at face value we can all relate to guys like The Cowardly Lion, who seeks courage…The Tin Man, who wishes for a heart, and The Scarecrow, who only wants a brain. These are endearing but imperfect characters who recognize what they lack and engage in a journey to be made whole. It has been suggested that The Wizard represents God, Oz is Heaven, and The Yellow Brick Road is a kind of path to enlightenment. I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is it’s no wonder we feel a connection to these flawed characters seeking redemption.
“If I only had a brain.” (Scarecrow)
“Courage! What makes a King out of a slave? Courage! (Cowardly Lion)
“If I only had a heart.” (Tin Man)
28 ET (ET: The Extra-Terrestrial)
Our fascination with outer space & aliens goes back many decades, but it feels like most of the time sci-fi treats such creatures as villains that we humans are to fear. Not ET. He’s about as loveable as anything that a UFO has ever stranded on Earth. He befriends 10 year old Elliott & the boy’s family, and in a harbinger of things to come with product placement in movies develops an affinity for Reese’s Pieces, which had only been on the market for five years. Actually the original script called for the use of M&M’s, but the Mars Candy Co. declined a deal that Hershey ultimately accepted. Of course we all know how these stories end and eventually Elliott & his pals help ET evade capture by government agents and hop a ship back to his home planet. Anyone over the age of 40 can tell you what ET looks & sounds like, and Reese’s Pieces are still going strong. I’d say that’s a solid legacy.
“Phone. Home. E.T. home phone.”
27 Jason, Michael, & Freddy (slasher flicks)
I am a child of the 80’s, and horror films were a big deal back then. While I am not a huge fan of the genre kudos must be given to three cornerstones, especially since they have appeared in a whopping 33 films (with more to come I’m sure). The only horror movie I really like is the original 1978 Halloween in which Michael Myers murders his older sister and ends up in a sanitarium at the tender age of six, only to escape fifteen years later and return home to the sleepy little hamlet of Haddonfield, IL on Halloween night to engage in a killing spree. Numerous sequels and reboots have been made, but all they’ve done is muddle the mythology and water down the understated brilliance of the original. Michael is referred to in the credits as The Shape, and his appearance is notable for the whited out William Shatner mask he wears. He never says a word, and we aren’t really supposed to know why he does what he does except that he is the embodiment of “pure evil” (one of the key elements the sequels & remakes ruined). Just as Jaws made the idea of swimming in the ocean perpetually frightening Jason Voorhees had a negative impact on summer camp for an entire generation & singlehandedly proliferated the ideas of triskaidekaphobia & paraskevidekatriaphobia (look them up…I can’t do everything). The backstory is that Jason is the young son of the cook at Camp Crystal Lake, and when he drowns as a boy his mother goes nuts and starts killing people. As it turns out he isn’t as dead as everyone thought, which means Mom’s revenge was needless. But now she’s dead and he’s the one seeking vengeance. At any rate, Jason is known for wearing a hockey mask, although he didn’t actually do that until Part 3. The backstory for Freddy Krueger is a little stronger. He’s a child killer in small town Ohio who lures his victims to a boiler room before shredding them with a bladed leather glove. After he gets out of jail on a technicality he is hunted down & burned alive by a mob of angry parents. Years later, though his physical body is dead he lives on and haunts the dreams of local teenagers. Everything about Freddy is memorable, from his history to his clothes to his burnt face. And really, the idea of an evil force haunting our dreams is super creepy and borderline genius.
26 Obi-Wan Kenobi & Master Yoda (The Star Wars Trilogy)
Wise old gurus who seem to understand the mysteries of life and pass on their knowledge to young protagonists are a cornerstone of cinema, and nowhere is it done better than in the Star Wars universe. Ben Kenobi is initially introduced as an old recluse living on Tattoine near Owen & Beru Lars and their nephew Luke Skywalker. After his aunt & uncle’s death Luke is mentored by the elderly man, who we find out was a great & powerful Jedi warrior. His relationship with Luke’s father is a huge part of the franchise. Obi-Wan is killed by his nemesis Darth Vader in the first film, but appears as a Force ghost in the latter two parts of the original trilogy. A younger Obi-wan is a significant player in the prequel trilogy as we see his relationship with Anakin Skywalker from beginning to end. Sir Alec Guinness was already a living legend by the time he originated the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi, having won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 1957 for his role in The Bridge on the River Kwai. During his career he received four Oscar nominations, including a Best Supporting Actor nod for Star Wars (he lost to Jason Robards). Guinness famously had a…complicated…relationship with Star Wars, calling it “fairytale rubbish” and the dialogue “banal mumbo jumbo”. It was his idea to kill the character off in the first movie as he “shriveled up” at the mere mention of Star Wars. Luckily for George Lucas he didn’t face the same ego-driven obstacles with Yoda since it was essentially a puppet voiced by Frank Oz (the same guy who provided the voice for other famous characters like Miss Piggy, Fozzy Bear, Cookie Monster, & Ernie’s pal Bert). Yoda is the Jedi Master of Jedi Masters, a 900 year old two foot tall creature with wrinkled green skin and an odd…almost dyslexic…speech pattern who we don’t meet until he trains Luke Skywalker on Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. It is his appearance & the way he talks that makes Yoda so memorable. I’m far too lazy to do the required research, but I’d bet that Yoda was one of the top selling Halloween costumes in the early 80’s.
“The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It is an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” (Yoda)
“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view. The truth is often what we make of it…you heard what you wanted to hear, believed what you wanted to believe.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
“Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.” (Yoda)
“I felt a great disturbance in the Force… as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
“Do or do not, there is no try.” (Yoda)
“Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
“Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.” (Yoda)
“If you define yourself by the power to take life, the desire to dominate, to possess…then you have nothing.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
“Attachment leads to jealously. The shadow of greed, that is.” (Yoda)
“Be mindful of your thoughts…they betray you.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
“If no mistake have you made, yet losing you are… a different game you should play.” (Yoda)
“If you strike me down I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.” (Obi-Wan Kenobi)
Let’s take a break. We’ll resume with the Top 25 soon.
“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.
In the 1974 Rankin/Bass stop motion classic The Year Without a Santa Claus the Jolly Old Elf isn’t feeling quite so jolly and decides that he’s going to take a vacation from delivering gifts. In much the same way Sammy Claus seriously pondered cancelling this year’s wish list, not due to any kind of illness or cynicism, but…well…for no real reason outside of a general malaise. Sammy Claus isn’t feeling ill nor particularly depressed, but does experience the occasional funk. Unfortunately there is no Mrs. Sammy Claus to broker a deal with the Miser Brothers, and neither is there access to elves to go out & drum up some Christmas spirit. Having said all of that, Sammy Claus has decided to power thru and deliver the Ninth Annual Wish List. As always, being Sammy Claus wields no special power. I will not be flying around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer on Christmas Eve. I will be spending the evening with family and then put in a bit of quality time with Ralphie Parker & George Bailey. However, my fervent hope is that a certain inhabitant of The North Pole reads The Manofesto on occasion and might see fit to…at some point in the future…bestow these gifts upon the entities named here. And of course my biggest & deepest wish is that everyone will step away from the gifts & the food & the movies & all of the wonderful merriment accompanying this most wonderful season to praise The One True Reason that we even celebrate Christmas to begin with:
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men”! So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into Heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. – 2nd Chapter of The Book of Luke
The State of Florida:Remedial Voting in Elections & Counting Ballots 101
CNN reporter Jim Acosta: an ounce of class & professionalism
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: an ounce of common sense
Valerie Jarrett: all nine original seasons of Roseanne on DVD, and a Planet of the Apes boxed set
soon-to-be former Ohio St. football coach Urban Meyer:
improved health & a happy retirement
David Hogg: a conceal carry permit & a 9mm
President Trump’s Border Wall:
proper funding and beginning of construction
Facebook: legit competition…we’ve had just about enough of their shenanigans
Harry & Meghan: a healthy baby
James Shaw Jr.: free waffles for life
soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi: a big bottle of skunk pee
Star Wars: a fitting conclusion, and once & for all an end to the franchise…leave the memories alone
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
good health, but also the good sense to finally retire (it’s way past time)
SNL’s Pete Davidson:
improved mental health, maturity, & a better idea of what is actually funny
United States Unemployment:
a continued lowering trend (the current unemployment rate of 3.7% is the lowest in almost fifty years)
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford:
an adult voice, restraint is spending the huge amount of money she was undoubtedly paid to destroy Bret Kavanaugh, & a window to truth & honesty right beside that second front door on her house
Justice Brett Kavanaugh:
a voice of reason that opposes any attempt to destroy Constitutional rights and judicial restraint in deciding such cases
Michael Rotondo: a job & a place to live…you’re 31 years old – time to grow up & be a man
Southern California: deforestation
Stormy Daniels: dolla dolla bills y’all
#MeToo: an end…it has outlived its usefulness & become a joke
former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens:
much happiness & success with any opportunities that come his way
The Conners: cancellation…ABC knows they made a mess out of the whole situation, so do the humane & intelligent thing and put the wounded bird out of its misery
The Big Bang Theory:a fun & well-written conclusion to 12 wonderful seasons, and long life in syndication
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.”
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
Before we get to the exciting conclusion of the 2016 Sammy Awards it must be noted that less than 24 hours after “journalist” Megyn Kelly was nominated & shared a victory for the DB Cooper Award it was announced that she is leaving Fox News and heading to NBC next summer. I’m not quite sure that qualifies as disappearing, but it’s not the promotion many might think it is. As always, if you haven’t caught up with Part 1 or Part 2 of the show please do so now. Trust me…you’ll be glad you did.
Alright, after a brief yet amusing anecdote from our host Steve Harvey, it is a sincere pleasure for The Sammys to welcome, via satellite, the next First Lady of the United States. Please give a warm welcome to Melania Trump, who would like to say a few words.
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers had a dream. An awesome dream. People in the park playing games in the dark. It was Saturday in the park. I think it was the Fourth of July. And today, my friends, I also have a dream. I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will be judged only by the content of their character. I have a dream that one day we will live in a nation where people ask not what the country can do for you, but instead ask what you can do for your country. I have a dream that one day we will take not just one small step for man, but one giant leap for mankind. Until that day comes, with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. And when the end is near and we face the final curtain, we will be able to say that we did it our way. To be or not to be…that is the question. Good night, good night. Parting is such sweet sorrow that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.”
Thank you Mrs. Trump. That was…interesting. And now, to present our next award, please welcome two of the biggest movie stars in the world. Well okay…we did contact some of the biggest movie stars in the world, but they all politely declined our invitation. So instead, please welcome two former hosts of this show…beloved actor & comedian Billy Crystal and talented singer & actor Justin Timberlake!! And the nominees are:
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2
Dedicated fans of the 2002 original will undoubtedly appreciate the sequel. I feel the same about both…charming, entertaining, yet ultimately prosaic. Watch out for young Elena Kampouris…she’s got star potential.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Andy Samberg takes his Sandler-esque sense of humor and applies it to a modern day Spinal Tap type of mockumentary. The story follows faux rapper Conner Friel’s rise as part of a boy band thru his evolution to solo artist Conner 4Real. He’s a big star after his debut album, but when a follow-up flops h-a-r-d his life hilariously implodes. There are a ton of cameos from folks like Simon Cowell, Emma Stone, Adam Levine, & Weird Al Yankovic, as well as supporting parts for a bunch of Samberg’s old SNL cronies. Appearances by Seal, Michael Bolton, & Martin Sheen are particularly amusing. The “songs” performed are predictably bad, and to be honest a bit too…colorful…for my taste, but I assume the target demographic will find them hysterically funny in the way that youngsters back in the day appreciated Spinal Tap classics like Sex Farm and Hell Hole. If you enjoy Samberg’s shtick and aren’t easily offended this is the movie for you.
Now You See Me 2
The 2013 original was a surprise hit. This sequel doesn’t quite measure up. Outlaw magicians The Four Horsemen return from exile to take down an evil tech guru, but the script is flipped on them as they are goaded into helping an allegedly deceased billionaire steal…something. I don’t know. The plot is too busy and the performances by a superb cast are overly cheeky. It’s entertaining until you pause for five seconds to ponder the implausibilities, and then the whole thing crumbles like a wet paper towel. I rather enjoyed the first film, and I hope the inevitable Part 3 is more crisply written & executed. As for this entry…let’s just be polite and call it acceptably entertaining.
I have stated repeatedly over the years that I don’t get the love for allegedly funny comedian Kevin Hart, but somehow I always seem to end up watching his movies, which have generally been…tolerable…fun. This is no exception. Hart stars as a former high school big man on campus that…two decades later…has settled into a humdrum middle class existence. The Rock plays the fat kid from high school that was bullied by all the jocks, with the exception of Hart, who befriended him. Nowadays Rock is a buff CIA agent. The juxtaposition is comical. At any rate, there’s something about secret codes, a rogue agent, an allegedly dead partner, etc. The details aren’t important. Our two leading men get caught up in the chaos and there is gunfire & explosions, the occasional lame joke, and a vague attempt at suspense. It’s the kind of film where the actors are engaging but someone should find the screenwriters and give them a stern scolding.
For the Love of Spock
Documentaries haven’t typically been nominated for these awards, but the older I get the more I enjoy a good documentary. This one concurrently explores the life of actor Leonard Nimoy and to a greater extent the history & influence of the beloved character he portrayed in the original Star Trek TV show and multiple feature films. It is directed by Nimoy’s son and features a plethora of interviews with Trek cast members old & new, family members, friends, & fans. It is sort of a love letter from a son to his father, but needs to be seen by anyone who considers themselves a Trekkie.
Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
Adam West & Burt Ward, who starred in the infamously campy Batman TV show in the 60’s, return to voice The Caped Crusader & The Boy Wonder in this animated throwback. The Dynamic Duo are faced with a team of their old enemies…Joker, Riddler, Catwoman, & Penguin…who are after some kind of duplicating device that will help them rule the world…or something to that effect. Batman & Robin even follow the baddies to outer space, and somehow Catwoman slips Batman something that makes him start acting way out of character, like a real jerk. He insults Aunt Harriet, fires Alfred, kicks Robin out of Wayne Manor, & takes over as police commissioner as well as mayor. Robin talks Catwoman into giving our favorite superhero the antidote and all’s well that ends well. If you’re a fan of the old television show you’ll enjoy this harmlessly fun movie. If you’ve never seen the show you probably wouldn’t understand.
The Secret Life of Pets
You’ve probably seen Toy Story. This is like that, only with animals instead of toys. That isn’t necessarily deleterious, just derivative. Entertaining, but unremarkable.
Star Trek: Beyond
This is the third adventure featuring the “new” crew of the Enterprise but the first without JJ Abrams at the helm…and it makes a difference. The new director’s previous work consists mainly of films in the Fast & Furious franchise, which may be viewed as a positive by some…but I’m guessing not many. The story has the Enterprise being attacked by what looks like a crapload of space knives then crash landing, scattering the crew on a hostile planet where the movie’s villain is after some kind of trinket that turns out to be a bio-weapon. Beyond is the cinematic equivalent of nachos & cheese…it tastes good in the moment, but five minutes after you’ve consumed it you have forgotten it and a couple of hours later you’re hungry again. I’ll probably “get it” more after repeat viewings, but the problem is that I really don’t feel a yearning to watch it again. Thus far this new Trek movie series has been better than the TNG films but not nearly as memorable as the six films starring the original crew. My expectations are always high with Trek, and while Beyond could certainly be worse it also could’ve been way better.
Batman: The Killing Joke
2016 was a big year for The Caped Crusader and this may be the surprising best of what was offered. Based on a superb & highly regarded 1988 graphic novel that concurrently examines the origin story of The Joker and his plan to drive Commissioner Gordon insane by kidnapping both he & his daughter Barbara, aka Batgirl, there are some…additions…made to the story that weren’t a part of the novel, and while it upset some critics & hardcore Batfans I am not overly offended. The theme that “one bad day” is all that separates almost any of us from a completely different life is a weighty idea to ponder. I vaguely recall actor Kevin Conroy on defunct soap opera Search for Tomorrow in the 1980’s, but in the ensuing years he has voiced Batman in a plethora of animated films & TV shows. Right alongside him is Mark Hamill, who, of course, is better known as Luke Skywalker, but should probably be equally as appreciated for voicing The Joker in all of the same animated shows & movies. Just because this film is animated does not mean that it is for kids, but Batman aficionados will likely enjoy it.
We’ve had Bad Santa, Bad Teacher, & Bad Grandpa. Now we have Bad Moms. The word “bad” in the title basically gives the main characters license to drink, curse, fornicate, & engage in other debauchery. The cast here, led by Mila Kunis & Kristen Bell, is charming and makes it work somehow. I have no children, but I was a kid once and didn’t realize the school PTA (controlled with an iron fist in this movie by super witchy Christina Applegate) could be so…authoritative. I had a difficult time buying into that concept being even remotely plausible. However I do get the prevailing theme that mothers bear a ton of pressure & responsibility, which is probably why I see so many women in their 30’s & 40’s on my Facebook feed posting about wine, ladies’ night, & the need to “get their drink on” like they’re back at the ol’ college sorority house. Look for a particularly humorous cameo from the normally detestable Martha Stewart.
On January 15, 2009 Captain Sully Sullenberger piloted a successful water landing of a US Airways passenger jet into New York’s Hudson River. 155 people were on board and all survived with only minor injuries. Captain Sullenberger became one of those temporary celebrities that dominates the water cooler conversation for a week or two and then fades away into the haze of history. The incomparable Tom Hanks portrays Sullenberger in this biopic, which examines the events surrounding the incident and the NTSB investigation that followed. It’s a solid film…not all that memorable or groundbreaking, but a story that needed to be told. What is successfully conveyed is the professionalism & skillful conduct under pressure of all involved…pilots, flight attendants, first responders, air traffic control, Coast Guard, etc. Hanks has the gravitas to make almost anything he is in better by his mere presence.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Fans of the original Star Wars trilogy may recall that Luke Skywalker destroyed The Death Star in the first film, Episode IV: A New Hope. Rogue One tells the story of how the Rebel Alliance got their hands on the weapon’s blueprint and why it had a fatal flaw that would ultimately lead to its destruction. There are brief appearances by a few familiar faces, but the cast is mostly made up of new characters that we never met in the original films…with good reason. This is a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon, better than 2/3 of the sequel trilogy (I rather enjoyed Revenge of the Sith) and, in my humble opinion, superior to last year’s much anticipated The Force Awakens.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Batman thinks Superman is an out-of-control God-like figure who must be stopped. Superman thinks Batman is an out-of-control vigilante who must be stopped. They battle it out in a brawl that lasts longer than Ronda Rousey’s last two fights put together, but hey, both of their mothers are named Martha so they become pals. Lex Luthor is around to stir the pot and act like a neurotic sociopath who really needs to lay off the caffeine. Wonder Woman is present for no apparent reason other than to set up a Justice League movie. All the other usual suspects are involved as well…Lois Lane, Alfred Pennyworth, Perry White. It’s quite the obnoxious spectacle thanks to director Zach Snyder, whose style just doesn’t frost my cupcake. Having said that, as a longtime Batman fan I am all in on Ben Affleck’s performance as The Caped Crusader. It is my understanding that Snyder will not have his fingerprints on a future film focusing solely on Affleck’s version of The Dark Knight, and for that I am thankful. I am not a comic book film guy…I’ve not seen any of the recent Marvel “Universe” movies…so I didn’t have unrealistic expectations going into this thing. Those that are really into that whole deal probably either love or hate Dawn of Justice. I am somewhere in the middle…I don’t dislike it at all, but I don’t foresee many repeat viewings in my future unless it’s to figure out what the heck I saw the first time.
And the Sammy goes to…..
For the Love of Spock. I have become very difficult to please when it comes to movies. I continue to lean toward comedy, but those tend to be rather vulgar & sophomoric these days. Action films have seemingly become even louder & more cerebrally vacant than ever before. Hollywood caters to the lowest common denominator, serving up the cinematic equivalent of soda pop & potato chips…empty calories with no nutritional value. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, so occasionally they give us a gem. Trekkies NEED to watch this film. I actually became a bit misty toward the end, which was completely unexpected. Yes the target audience is comparatively small. And there’s really nothing groundbreaking about the stories told. But that’s okay. FtLoS knows what it is. It has a very specific focus. 7 out of 10 people may have zero interest in watching it, but the three people who do will absolutely love it. Trek has been a part of the pop culture landscape for a half century, and there’s a reason for that. Part of that reason can be found right here.
To present our final award of the evening please welcome a rising star in the news business. At only 24 years old she has grabbed the attention of political observers on both sides of the aisle with her hard hitting commentaries presented thru viral videos. Please give a rousing ovation to Tomi Lahren!! And the nominees are:
Biggest News Story
U.S. Presidential Election
We began 2016 with a crowded field of candidates vying for the Republican nomination. Conversely, the Democratic nomination was never in question, as Hillary Clinton was always The Chosen One despite token yet spirited opposition from socialist Bernie Sanders. By the end of the summer it became clear that it would be Donald Trump vs. Mrs. Clinton, and voters of all persuasions began pondering if this is really the best America can do. Trump’s participation in the process, once thought to be an amusing distraction, evolved into a serious candidacy despite the man’s plethora of foibles. Both sides underestimated the anger & disenchantment of America’s Heartland with a decade of growing racial tension, fragile foreign policy, fading military power, decreasing moral fiber, & amplified political correctness. Trump hit all the right notes despite his penchant for sticking his foot in his mouth. His biggest weakness was also his biggest strength. Meanwhile, HRC was a terribly unappealing candidate to most everyone outside of radical left wing strongholds in urban metropolises like New York City, Los Angeles, & Chicago. His bull in a china shop bravado against her unethical behavior & vaguely creepy demeanor was a disturbing yet entertaining battle royal. In the aftermath of a Trump victory leftists in the media & Hollywood have been throwing an endless temper tantrum, which probably foreshadows a really interesting four years.
Aleppo is a city in Syria. As a matter of fact it is one of the oldest cities in the world and is inhabited by both Christians & Muslims. A civil war has be ongoing in Syria for several years, and the city itself has seen intense fighting. I won’t pretend to know all the facts of what has happened there or the foreign policy implications, but it has been a topic of conversation here in America.
The first Level 5 hurricane to hit the United States since 2007 began near the end of September and caused destruction & chaos in Haiti, The Bahamas, & Cuba before hitting the coasts of Florida & the Carolinas in the second week of October, causing power outages and significant flooding.
The Supreme Court lost its most ardent conservative voice in February with the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia at the age of 79. Scalia had been a strong defender of The Constitution since his appointment to The Court three decades earlier. His loss is so significant that a replacement has yet to be vetted & confirmed, although I expect that to change in the next few months.
Every year or two another killer virus pops up that no one seems to know how to obliterate. Zika isn’t exactly new, having been around since the 50’s. However, in 2016 the virus spread from Africa to Asia to North & South America. It seemed to especially be a problem in Brazil, causing significant concern since that is where the Summer Olympics were being held. To my knowledge the mass hysteria was overblown and no Olympic athletes or fans were infected.
Orlando Mass Shooting
On June 12, 2016 yet another Muslim sympathizer decided to go nuts, killing 49 people and wounding 53 others inside a gay nightclub in Florida. I’m not really sure what to think or say about the whole thing except that evil exists in the world and it is tragic when innocent lives are lost for no good reason.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note has been a successful product for several years. However, in 2016 they began randomly catching fire & exploding. Obviously the product was recalled. Seriously folks…just get an iPhone. You won’t regret it.
In June voters in the United Kingdom (a united nation comprised of the countries of England, Scotland, Wales, & Northern Ireland) decided to leave the European Union. I am not familiar enough with European politics to understand all the hows & whys, and I have no idea whether or not this is a positive occurrence. As an American I do understand the value of freedom & independence, and I cannot imagine ever merging with Canada & Mexico to form some kind of supernation.
In November the Smoky Mountain region of the United States battled wildfires that did significant damage to the cities of Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge, home of the Dollywood amusement park. 14k people were forced to evacuate. 16k acres were affected. 14 people died and 134 people were injured. These were the deadliest wildfires in the eastern U.S. in nearly 70 years.
The southern half of my home state was hit hard by floods back in June. Ten inches of rain fell in less than 24 hours, resulting in atleast 23 deaths and the loss of hundreds of homes in four counties. 44 of our 55 counties were declared disaster areas.
Dallas Police Shootings
In early July five police officers were killed and nine others injured in Dallas, TX following a Black Lives Matter rally. To be fair it is said that the event itself was a peaceful protest. The officers present were tasked with keeping the crowd safe, and it is absolutely sickening that they lost their lives to a racist scumbag when they did nothing wrong.
And the Sammy goes to…..
The Election. Let’s face it…the 2016 election dominated the news. Nearly every other story was dwarfed by it, and the candidates were asked to weigh in on other prominent events, making them tangentially tied to just about everything that happened in 2016. Hillary Clinton & Donald Trump were on our TVs, computer screens, & newspapers constantly. There was no escape. Even in the aftermath of the election the battle has waged on thanks to a complicit left wing news media and mindless celebrities that won’t let it die. And now we move to the next phase, which is a Trump Presidency, whether one likes it or not. I am inclined to believe that it is not the end of civilization as we know it. Though I am sure President Trump will make decisions that I won’t agree with, I also think he will surprise many folks with some positive choices & favorable results. We’d probably all be better off just ignoring the “mainstream” press & inane ramblings from Hollywood, although I know that is difficult. Let’s just see what happens. I think everything will be okay.
golf icon Arnold Palmer…astronaut & former U.S. Senator John Glenn…writer/director/actor/producer Garry Marshall (Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, Mork & Mindy, Pretty Woman)…legendary women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt…boxing legend Cassius Clay…authors Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird), WP Kinsella (Shoeless Joe), Alvin Toffler (Future Shock), Tim LaHaye (Left Behind), Richard Adams (Watership Down), & Pat Conroy (The Prince of Tides, The Great Santini)…rock icons Glenn Frey, Prince, & David Bowie…Agnes Nixon (creator of soap operas All My Children, Loving, & One Life to Live)…former NFL head coach (Philadelphia Eagles) & defensive coordinator (Chicago Bears) Buddy Ryan…former First Lady Nancy Reagan…Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia…Pulitzer prize winning playwright Edward Albee…former MLB player & broadcaster Joe Garagiola…comedians Garry Shandling & Bob Elliot…sportscasters John Saunders & Craig Sager…actresses Carrie Fisher (the Star Wars series, The Blues Brothers, When Harry Met Sally), Debbie Reynolds (Singin’ in the Rain), Florence Henderson (The Brady Bunch), Patty Duke (The Miracle Worker), Doris Roberts (Everybody Loves Raymond, Remington Steele, Christmas Vacation), Gloria DeHaven, Ann Morgan Guilbert (Grumpier Old Men, The Nanny), Zsa Zsa Gabor, Margaret Whitton (Major League), & Ronnie Claire Edwards (The Waltons)…Ray Tomlinson (inventor of e-mail)…physician Henry Heimlich (inventor of the Heimlich Maneuver)…writer/producer Earl Hamner Jr. (The Waltons, Falcon Crest, The Twilight Zone)…retired pro wrestlers Hayabusa, Lord James Blears, Joanie Laurer (aka Chyna), Balls Mahoney, Lord Littlebrook, Frenchy Martin, Blackjack Mulligan, Mr. Fuji, & “Iron” Mike Sharpe…journalist Morley Safer (60 Minutes)…televangelist Jan Crouch (TBN)…former NFL players/coaches Ted Marchibroda & Marion Campbell…Richard Trentladge (jingle writer for Oscar Meyer)…actors Abe Vigoda (The Godfather, Barney Miller), Alan Rickman (Die Hard, the Harry Potter series), Gene Wilder (Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein), Alan Thicke (Growing Pains), Bernard Fox (Bewitched, The Andy Griffith Show, Titanic), Kevin Meaney (Uncle Buck TV show), Fyvush Finkel (Picket Fences), Pat Harrington Jr. (One Day at a Time), Alexis Arquette (The Wedding Singer), Dan Haggerty (Grizzly Adams), Richard Libertini (Fletch, Awakenings, Lethal Weapon 4), Burt Kwouk (the Pink Panther films), Alan Young (Mister Ed), Kenny Baker (R2-D2 in Star Wars), Steven Hill (Law & Order), George Gaynes (Punky Brewster, Police Academy, General Hospital), Ron Lester (Varsity Blues), William Christopher (Father Mulcahey on MASH), Jack Riley (The Bob Newhart Show), Ron Glass (Barney Miller), Tony Burton (Rocky), George Kennedy (The Dirty Dozen, The Naked Gun, Dallas), Barry Jenner, Anthony Addabbo (Guiding Light), Larry Drake (L.A. Law), Anton Yelchin (Star Trek), Ken Howard (The White Shadow), Bill Nunn (Spider-Man, Sister Act, Do the Right Thing), William Schallert (The Andy Griffith Show, The Patty Duke Show), James Noble (Benson), Hugh O’Brien (The Shootist, Wyatt Earp), Joseph Mascolo (Days of Our Lives), David Huddleston (The Big Lebowski, Santa Claus: The Movie), Robert Vaughn (The Man From UNCLE), George S. Irving (voice of Heat Miser in The Year Without a Santa Claus), & Larkin Malloy (Guiding Light, The Edge of Night, All My Children)…troubled former NFL RB Lawrence Phillips…”journalist” Gwen Ifill…baseball Hall-of-Famer Monte Irvin…soap opera producer Claire Labine (General Hospital)…songwriters/musicians Frank Sinatra Jr., Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Merle Haggard, Paul Kantner (Jefferson Starship), Bobby Vee, Matt Roberts (Three Doors Down), Holly Dunn, Steve Young (Seven Bridges Road), Pete Fountain, Jimmie Van Zant, Leon Russell, Jack Hammer (Great Balls of Fire), Christina Grimmie, Rikki Martin, Buckwheat Zydeco, & Maurice White (Earth, Wind, & Fire)…MMA fighter Kimbo Slice…former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno…voice actor Joe Alaskey (succeeded Mel Blanc in performing Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester, & Tweety)…retired MLB players Tony Phillips & Milt Pappas…Oscar winning director Curtis Hanson (L.A. Confidential, Wonder Boys)…wine maker Peter Mondavi…Cuban dictator Fidel Castro…New Orleans Saints DE Will Smith & NY Jets RB Joe McKnight…Sir George Martin (record producer for The Beatles)…former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres…sports journalist & tennis commentator Bud Collins…Jim Kimsey (co-founder of AOL)…NASCAR team owner Carl Haas…Rob Ford (former crackhead Mayor of Toronto)…WV radio personalities “Cadillac” Jim Stallings & Lacy Neff…EWTN founder Mother Angelica…former Duke University AD Tom Butters…retired NBA players Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, Brooks Thompson, & Sean Rooks…former Governor & Senator from Ohio George Voinovich…hockey Hall-of-Famer Gordie Howe…former MLB pitcher Ralph Branca (pitcher who gave up The Shot Heard ‘Round the World)…TV host Bill “Chilly Billy” Cardille… Jim Delligatti (creator of the Big Mac)…retired NFL coach Dennis Green…television psychic Miss Cleo…retired boxers Bobby Chacon & Aaron Pryor…conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly…former NFL players Cary Blanchard, Dennis Byrd, Keion Carpenter, Quentin Groves, Rashaan Salaam, & Fulton Walker…political host/commentator John McLaughlin…MLB pitcher Jose Fernandez (Miami Marlins)…former NBC Chairman & CEO Grant Tinker…former Congressman & WV Secretary of State Ken Hechler…retired BYU football coach Lavell Edwards…Jeopardy champion Cindy Stowell
college basketball player Lauren Hill…musician/songwriter Gary Richrath (REO Speedwagon)…actors Leonard Nimoy (Star Trek’s Mr. Spock), James Best (Dukes of Hazzard, The Andy Griffith Show), Christopher Lee (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Star Wars prequels), Robert Loggia (Scarface, Big), Al Molinaro (Happy Days, Joanie Loves Chachi), Wayne Rogers (MASH), Taylor Negron (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Punchline), Richard Dysart (L.A. Law), Windell Middlebrooks (Body of Proof, Miller High Life commercials), Martin Brooks (Dallas, The Six Million Dollar Man), Geoffrey Lewis (Every Which Way But Loose, Any Which Way You Can), Tony Longo, Patrick Macnee (The Avengers), Dean Jones (The Love Bug), David Canary (All My Children, Bonanza), Omar Sharif (Lawrence of Arabia), Alex Rocco (The Godfather, Facts of Life), Marty Ingles, Nathaniel Marston (One Life to Live), Dick Van Patten (Eight is Enough, Spaceballs), Roger Rees (Cheers, The West Wing)…legendary blues man BB King…Bobbi Kristina Brown (tragic daughter of Whitney Houston & Bobby Brown)…Oscar winning composer James Horner (Field of Dreams, Titanic, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Braveheart, Apollo 13, The Perfect Storm)…televangelist Rev. Robert Schuller…NFL Hall-of-Famers Chuck Bednarik, Frank Gifford, & Ken Stabler…Gary Dahl (inventor of the Pet Rock)…ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott…actresses Donna Douglas (Ellie Mae on The Beverly Hillbillies), Yvonne Craig (Batman, Star Trek), Maureen O’Hara (Miracle on 34th Street), Ellen Dow (The Wedding Singer), Grace Lee Whitney (Petty Officer Rand on Star Trek), Patricia Elliott (One Life to Live), Suzanne Crough (Tracy on The Partridge Family), Mary Ellen Trainor (Die Hard, the Lethal Weapon series), Ann Meara (Archie Bunker’s Place), Betsy Palmer (Friday the 13th), & Amanda Peterson (Can’t Buy Me Love, A Year in the Life)…Betty Willis (designer of the Welcome to FabulousLas Vegas sign)…former NBA coach Flip Saunders…horror writer & director Wes Craven (A Nightmare on Elm Street)…infamous stripper Blaze Starr…former publisher & NY Mets owner Nelson Doubleday Jr….retired basketball players Moses Malone, “Hot Rod” Hundley, Roy Tarpley, Jerome Kersey, Meadowlark Lemon & Marques Haynes (Harlem Globetrotters), Darryl Dawkins, “Hot Rod” Williams, & Anthony Mason…Huntington, WV weatherman & TV personality Jule Huffman (aka Mr. Cartoon)…MLB Hall-of-Famers Yogi Berra & Ernie Banks…entrepreneur Lillian Vernon…former Governors Arch Moore Jr. (WV) & Mario Cuomo (NY)…retired NFL player & coach Allie Sherman…singers Andrae Crouch, Ben E. King (Stand By Me), Lesley Gore (It’s My Party), Little Jimmy Dickens, Jack Ely (Louie Louie as part of The Kingsmen), Percy Sledge (When A Man Loves A Woman), Jim Ed Brown, …Las Vegas entrepreneur Kirk Kerkorian…legendary college basketball coaches Jerry Tarkanian (UNLV), Guy Lewis (Houston), & Dean Smith (North Carolina)…authors Jackie Collins, E.L. Doctorow, & Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds)…pro wrestling legends Verne Gagne, “The American Dream” Dusty Rhodes, Tommy Rogers, “The Nature Boy” Buddy Landell, Rowdy Roddy Piper, Nick Bockwinkel, & Larry Winters…journalist Bob Simon (60 Minutes)…Hall-of-Fame golfer Billy Casper…former U.S. Senator & actor Fred Thompson…screenwriter Melissa Matheson (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial)…Bud Paxson (founder of Home Shopping Network)…producers Jerry Weintraub (Ocean’s Eleven, Diner, The Karate Kid), Samuel Goldwyn Jr., & Harve Bennett (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan & four other Star Trek films, The MOD Squad, The Six Million Dollar Man, The Bionic Woman)…former MLB players Minnie Minoso, Dave Henderson, & Darryl Hamilton…TV announcer Gary Owens (Laugh-In, Space Ghost)…Ed Sabol (founder of NFL Films)…Gene Gene the Dancing Machine (The Gong Show)…former Speaker of the U.S. House Jim Wright…NASCAR announcer Steve Byrnes…Nobel Prize winning mathematician John Forbes Nash Jr. (subject of A Beautiful Mind)…trailblazing golfer Calvin Peete…attorney & author (Helter Skelter) Vincent Bugliosi…former UNC basketball coach Bill Guthridge…retired NFL kicker Garo Yepremian…songstress Natalie Cole…former NASCAR driver & broadcaster Buddy Baker…retired NFL coach Lindy Infante (Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts)…former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger…rock musicians Lemmy Kilmister (Motorhead) & Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots & Velvet Revolver)
A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..
Word on the street is that Harrison Ford is in for the Star Wars sequels. That’s good news. I can’t imagine that Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill wouldn’t be up for it as well. Surprisingly I’ve never read any of the dozens of Star Wars books but I can imagine that the new sequels will pick up three decades after Return of the Jedi and the focus would be on the offspring of our legendary triumvirate. I assume Han Solo & Princess Leia got married, had a couple kids, and now hold elder statesmen roles within The New Republic. Luke Skywalker is a Jedi master…kind of the new Obi-wan Kenobi…got married, and had a few children as well. Darth Vader is obviously dead so we’ll see a new bad guy. The key question is which actors & actresses will be cast as the new generation. I hope director JJ Abrams goes for good actors versus movie stars…there is a difference. This new trilogy has to be a cut above the mindless action rubbish that the movie going public has become anesthetized by. Star Wars deserves better. I pray that Abrams stays away from people like Shia LaBeouf, Zac Efron, Channing Tatum, and…God help us…Justin Bieber & Selena Gomez. There are decent young performers out there that could bring a level of gravitas to the story…folks like Paul Dano, Abigail Breslin, Jennifer Lawrence, Shailene Woodley, Emile Hirsch, Hunter Parrish, Josh Hutcherson, and Kate Mara. Abrams did an excellent job in casting the Star Trek reboot so I trust that he will do the same for Star Wars.
So I guess the new trend is to equate gay rights with civil rights and homosexuals with other minorities. I could go into a long diatribe about my particular feelings on the issue, but I will refrain. Suffice to say that I disagree with the philosophy and think that women & blacks…who fought long & hard for equal rights and still must to a certain degree…should be immensely offended about the equivocation. That doesn’t mean that those who choose a particular lifestyle should be made to endure discrimination & abuse because at the end of the day we should all be about human rights and stop trying to divide & conquer, but it does mean that some people need to stop demanding to be celebrated or given special treatment for their choices.
I love Al Pacino. He is one of the finest actors to ever grace a stage, TV screen, or movie set. But what is the deal with him doing all these biopics of controversial dudes?? First he played “Dr. Death” Jack Kevorkian for HBO in 2010. Then came word that he will be playing Joe Paterno in a future film. And now he’s playing wildhaired music producer & convicted murderer Phil Spector…again for HBO. I don’t know…these kinds of roles just somehow seem beneath a performer the caliber of Pacino.
I hear that Robin Williams is headed back to TV in a new sitcom. Now THAT is something to be excited about!!
Speaking of civil rights…..
I recently saw an ad on TV for a dating site called BlackPeopleMeet.com. I must admit that I was somewhat taken aback at first until I gave it some thought. Upon further ponderation I recalled that there is still an NAACP, a Congressional Black Caucus, and black colleges (well okay…now they say predominantly or historically black colleges) like Grambling, Howard, & Southern University, all of which were necessary at one time but seem somewhat anachronistic now. I was born way after the civil rights era of the 60’s with Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus & Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leading the fight for justice & freedom. However, it strikes me as odd that a group of folks whose forefathers fought so hard for and in some cases gave their lives for equality & integration continue to willingly segregate themselves on some level. If I started any kind of exclusive “whites only” organization in 2013 I would immediately be labeled a racist and be (rightly so) ostracized, belittled, & condemned. It seems like that’s a one way street though. Dr. King expressed faith that one day we would all be able to “work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together” and hope that “all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing”. I am not sure how BlackPeopleMeet.com helps achieve that goal.
I have discovered a new hobby. Events like The Super Bowl & The Grammys…among others…are much more entertaining if I utilize Twitter to express my smartass thoughts the entire time. I am actually looking forward to The Oscars for the first time in…well…ever.
I didn’t watch Obama’s State of the Union because I would rather stick my head in a pizza oven for an hour than hear that man spew his nonsense, but I hear that he wants to raise the minimum wage. That’s a nice idea in theory, but I wonder about the unintended negative consequences. What good does raising wages do when prices seem to rise correspondingly?? How many people would lose jobs and how many small businesses would go under?? Why are we concentrating on artificially raising the lowest standard instead of increasing opportunities for better jobs?? Will more people just end up on government assistance?? What about the people already making $10-15/hr….will their wages increase?? I am not an economist and I’m not really in the mood to get into anything in depth at the moment, but these are questions that need to be addressed & answered.
Back when I used to do a Person of the Month at the old site on MySpace I had…for some strange reason…a real issue with getting the darn thing published on time, which in a perfect world would be on the last day of the month. When I decided to revive the idea here in 2013 I promised myself I would do better, but I guess old habits die hard. The truth is that I have been in a little funk the past several days and got lazy. I believe that atleast part of it is weather induced as I do not like this cold, icy, snowy time of year and tend to go into a self-induced hibernation. At any rate I am doing my best to push thru which in part means fulfilling my own self-imposed promises here at The Manofesto.
Our new feature is called Heroes & Heels. These are the people & stories that either dominated the news or for some reason caught my eye during the past 30 days. They are presented in no particular order and I am sure my dear citizens of The Manoverse will be able to tell the bad guys from the good. Enjoy.
Yes yes yes…I am well aware that Abrams…currently helming the Star Trek revival…was chosen recently to direct a new Star Wars trilogy. I have already expressed my ambivalence about that. But Abrams deserves kudos for another reason. Early in January Abrams found out about a terminally ill New York man’s dying wish to see the new Trek film before he died. The director is notoriously secretive about his work, preferring to keep spoilers to a minimum. However, he made an exception in this case and sent a DVD of the unfinished film to the house of 41 year old Daniel Craft, who apparently watched it with his wife and some popcorn. A few days later Craft passed away. It may seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of life, but JJ Abrams’ gesture was classy & fundamentally decent…something we’re not used to seeing out of Hollywood types. Kudos Mr. Abrams.
I am sure you’ve heard about this idiot recently. He’s the mental giant who perpetrated the hoax on Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o, making him believe that he was in a 2 year long phone/cyber “relationship” with a girl that never actually existed. I am not willing to absolve Te’o of all responsibility yet because it still isn’t clear exactly when he found out the truth and how long he continued to perpetuate the fraud for his own purposes, and at the very least he is an extremely naïve & gullible young man who could probably use a good dose of therapy. However, it has become clear that Tuiasosopo is the one who came up with the sick joke in the first place. I don’t watch Dr. Phil, who I consider to be only slightly less of a charlatan than Oprah, but from what I read Tuiasosopo is now saying that he was molested as a child and he may be gay & in love with Te’o. Isn’t that convenient?? There’s always an excuse.
Terry Lee & George Burnett
Terry Lee is the owner of a forensics firm in Cedar City, UT. George Burnett owns a juice bar in Salt Lake City. Both decided to handle the new costs of Obamacare in a unique…and perfectly legal…way. Lee had to trim the fat a bit so he decided to “downsize” two liberal employees who had openly supported Obama, saying that “They wanted the idiot in the White House, they reap the benefits.” Burnett’s actions were a little less dramatic and more…dare I say…democratic. He simply charges libs a dollar more for a smoothie. I am not sure how effective his honor system is, but it’s the thought that counts. Now I realize that some may think that these actions are wrong, but personally I find them absolutely hilarious. Your mileage may vary.
I have a feeling media types will find themselves on the bad end of the deal a lot here. Schieffer’s particular brand of stupidity recently was equating the reinvigorated mission of liberals to crap all over our 2nd Amendment right to keep & bear arms to the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and the WWII effort to defeat Nazis. Yes friends…that is exactly what the publicity wing of the Democrat Party thinks of you, and they aren’t even making much of an effort to hide it any more.
Sheriff Denny Peyman
Sheriff Peyman of Kentucky is just one of several law enforcement types that have publicly stated their intention to not enforce any non-Constitutional gun laws that Congress & Obama may try to ram thru in the wake of recent tragedies in Connecticut & Colorado. Normally I am a law & order guy who believes in upholding the rule of law no matter what, so at first this story made me cringe a little bit. I expect the police to do their job. But upon further review Sheriff Peyman & others are clear that they will not enforce any new laws that violate our rights. That doesn’t mean that they will allow folks to go around waving guns willy nilly in their towns…it is just an indicator that if the time ever does come when the federal government takes things a bit too far they are likely to have a heck of a fight on their hands, which is kind of the point anyway.
Do I really have to explain this one?? I will assume you haven’t been completely oblivious to the world around you the past few weeks and know about recent events involving Armstrong. Needless to say he’s just not a very good person.
Which stands for Sexual Minorities Uganda. I guess their reach extends far beyond the land of Kamala’s birth though, as they are suing a Massachusetts pastor. Rev. Scott Lively actually preached from The Bible (Gasp!! The horror!!) during a mission trip to Uganda in 2009, and The Bible clearly states that homosexuality is an abomination. Evidently this didn’t please everyone. Not surprisingly SMUG’s legal battle is being funded by liberal kingpin George Soros. This type of lawsuit is potentially very dangerous because if it is successful it essentially limits the Constitutional rights of Christians to freely worship how they choose & speak feely about their beliefs.
Red Robin is a Colorado based “gourmet burger” chain that is unfortunately not in my local area. However, a franchise in North Carolina did a good deed recently that deserves recognition. A couple was dining at the restaurant with their two year old son. Mom was very pregnant. When the family got their bill the price of Mom’s meal had been deducted by the manager, with a simple note wishing her good luck. Evidently Red Robin employees nationwide are given the latitude to do such things at their discretion, which is awesome and makes me want to give them my business if I ever get the opportunity.
Professor James Tracy
You’ve heard of 9/11 “truthers”…the wackjobs that believe that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were a government conspiracy?? Well this moron is a communications professor at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton and is not only one of those but is also a Sandy Hook ‘truther”. He believes that the tragic events in Connecticut that led to the deaths of over two dozen people…many of them 6 & 7 year old children…may have been a drill involving actors. Really dude?? This guy is a college professor?? If I had a kid at Florida Atlantic University I’d seriously be making them transfer. Afterall, if this guy is employed there it is hard to tell just how many other insane nuts may be there indoctrinating students.
A semi-regular attempt to address some of life’s minutiae that might otherwise be overlooked…..
As a proud Trekkie and a huge fan of the Star Wars saga I am a bit…ambivalent…about JJ Abrams directing a new Star Wars film. It is my understanding that George Lucas had a 9 part series in his mind originally, so the idea of a new sequel trilogy is not inherently bothersome. However, we don’t have enough data. Is a sequel what is being planned?? If so, and the original stars…Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, & Harrison Ford…are involved in a passing of the torch then it could work. But if the plan is to do a remake or a reboot then I’m not sure I’d be all that interested. Abrams did a nice job rebooting Trek, but the way in which it was done was so brilliantly delicate that it simply cannot & should not be repeated. Then of course there is the matter of the Star Wars prequel trilogy that was done a decade ago. While the movies weren’t as bad (especially Episode III) as some cynics accuse them of being they also did not live up to all the hype. I suppose that may provide the benefit of lowered expectations for these sequels, which might not be such a horrible thing. And finally, I think some things should exist in their own space…separate but equal. Ketchup & mayo are both great…but different. Batman, Superman, & Spiderman all kick ass, but in different ways. I am not sure how I feel about the same director helming both Star Trek and Star Wars. It just seems odd. As much as I liked The Hobbit movie I still feel like it would have been better if Peter Jackson hadn’t been involved. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings are vastly different in tone, despite both being written by author JRR Tolkien, and I felt like the movies should reflect that. They do not. Star Trek and Star Wars are both legendary achievements in sci-fi, but they are different. Let’s hope Abrams is able to do both stories justice while keeping them at a proper distance from one another.
I am a hat guy. If I’m trying to be stylish I will occasionally wear a fedora, a porky pie hat, or a flat cap (sometimes referred to as a bunnet). However, more often than not I prefer a good ol’ baseball cap. Even with a ball hat though I am a bit neurotic. I don’t like trucker hats, not only because of the negative redneck connotation but also because I think the mesh looks tacky. I also do not like snapback hats or adjustable hats with a Velcro closure. They look cheap & low class. I prefer a fitted hat whenever possible but because I have a huge head (my Dad says that’s a trait from Mom’s side of the family) oftentimes I have trouble finding the right size. So my second choice is an adjustable cap with a decent looking belted closure, which is far more tasteful than the snapback or Velcro.
Normally a story involving a sports star like golfer Phil Mickelson would be reserved for an installment of Winning & Musing, but the latest news involving Mickelson doesn’t have anything to do with sports. Recently he publicly lamented in an interview that between his state & federal taxes he’s shelling out about 63% of his income to Uncle Sam and hinted that he may have to move out of California (undoubtedly the worst run & most fiscally irresponsible state in the nation). And then it happened…the drive-by media turned on Phil Mickelson like a viper. Because he is perceived as being “rich” it was deemed insensitive of him to complain about only getting to keep 37 cents out of each dollar he earns. My lackadaisical attempt at research tells me that he earned about $48 million in 2012, meaning that he gets to keep a little more than $17 million while paying about $30 million in taxes. Liberal logic would say that $17 million is more than enough for a man to live on, even if he is supporting a wife & three children. But let’s take it down to a level most of us can better wrap our heads around. The median household income in 2012 was about $50k. Imagine if you will that you worked hard and brought in $50,000 only to see $31,500 of it go back out in taxes…and that is before you’ve paid the mortgage & utilities, made any car payments, or eaten. You’d have to do those things on the $18,500 that’s left. Wouldn’t you be pissed?? But Mickelson, because he is “rich” (and has just about the coolest job imaginable) apparently has no right to complain and was shamed into making a public apology. That’s what we’ve come to in America…having to apologize for expressing an honest opinion and for wanting to keep more than 1/3 of our earned income. I find that very sad. Your mileage may vary.
Speaking of movies…
There are times when interesting films arrive in the theater right around Christmas and between holiday stuff, work commitments, family time, and bad weather I just don’t make it to see them before the end of the year, which makes them ineligible for a Sammy Award nomination (yes…there are rules). Two 2012 examples were the Billy Crystal/Bette Midler comedy Parental Guidance and Silver Linings Playbook, which is nominated for multiple Oscars including Best Picture, Best Actress, & Best Actor. Actually Playbook was released in November but just showed up in my town this month. That same weekend in November the final installment of that Twilight crapfest was released and we did get that here, but had to wait two months for a critically acclaimed award winning film. The joys of small town life. But I digress. I’d give both movies thumbs up. Parental Guidance is a mildly amusing tale about grandparents, parents, culture clash, & the generation gap. Crystal & Midler gel nicely, and Marisa Tomei is always easy on the eyes. It’s a forgettable story, but there are worse ways to spend two hours. Silver Linings Playbook is about two people who are more than neurotic but less than insane. Actually they are just lonely & depressed and luckily find each other to lean on. Jennifer Lawrence is this generation’s Meryl Streep. She can do comedy, action, & drama, and can be tough, sexy, funny, & vulnerable…sometimes all in the same scene. That’s talent. And if you only know Bradley Cooper from the Hangover films then you’ll be surprised at how good of an actor he really is. Oh…did I mention that DeNiro is in this movie too?? I think he is actually nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, although I am assuming that is based largely on his reputation as a living legend because this, while a fine performance, doesn’t measure up to his more memorable roles.
The following are the 157 guns that Senator Diane Feinstein…a lib from California…has made a proposal to ban:
RIFLES: All AK types, including the following: AK, AK47, AK47S, AK–74, AKM, AKS, ARM, MAK90, MISR, NHM90, NHM91, Rock River Arms LAR–47, SA85, SA93, Vector Arms AK–47, VEPR, WASR–10, and WUM, IZHMASH Saiga AK, MAADI AK47 and ARM, Norinco 56S, 56S2, 84S, and 86S, Poly Technologies AK47 and AKS. All AR types, including the following: AR–10, AR–15, Armalite M15 22LR Carbine, Armalite M15–T, Barrett REC7, Beretta AR–70, Bushmaster ACR, Bushmaster Carbon 15, Bushmaster MOE series, Bushmaster XM15, Colt Match Target Rifles, DoubleStar AR rifles, DPMS Tactical Rifles, Heckler & Koch MR556, Olympic Arms, Remington R–15 rifles, Rock River Arms LAR–15, Sig Sauer SIG516 rifles, Smith & Wesson M&P15 Rifles, Stag Arms AR rifles, Sturm, Ruger & Co. SR556 rifles; Barrett M107A1; Barrett M82A1; Beretta CX4 Storm; Calico Liberty Series; CETME Sporter; Daewoo K–1, K–2, Max 1, Max 2, AR 100, and AR 110C; Fabrique Nationale/FN Herstal FAL, LAR, 22 FNC, 308 Match, L1A1 Sporter, PS90, SCAR, and FS2000; Feather Industries AT–9; Galil Model AR and Model ARM; Hi-Point Carbine; HK–91, HK–93, HK–94, HK–PSG–1 and HK USC; Kel-Tec Sub–2000, SU–16, and RFB; SIG AMT, SIG PE–57, Sig Sauer SG 550, and Sig Sauer SG 551; Springfield Armory SAR–48; Steyr AUG; Sturm, Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rife M–14/20CF. All Thompson rifles, including the following: Thompson M1SB, Thompson T1100D, Thompson T150D, Thompson T1B, Thompson T1B100D, Thompson T1B50D, Thompson T1BSB, Thompson T1–C, Thompson T1D, Thompson T1SB, Thompson T5, Thompson T5100D, Thompson TM1, Thompson TM1C; UMAREX UZI Rifle; UZI Mini Carbine, UZI Model A Carbine, and UZI Model B Carbine; Valmet M62S, M71S, and M78; Vector Arms UZI Type; Weaver Arms Nighthawk; Wilkinson Arms Linda Carbine.
PISTOLS: All AK–47 types, including the following: Centurion 39 AK pistol, Draco AK–47 pistol, HCR AK–47 pistol, IO Inc. Hellpup AK–47 pistol, Krinkov pistol, Mini Draco AK–47 pistol, Yugo Krebs Krink pistol. All AR–15 types, including the following: American Spirit AR–15 pistol, Bushmaster Carbon 15 pistol, DoubleStar Corporation AR pistol, DPMS AR–15 pistol, Olympic Arms AR–15 pistol, Rock River Arms LAR 15 pistol; Calico Liberty pistols; DSA SA58 PKP FAL pistol; Encom MP–9 and MP–45; Heckler & Koch model SP-89 pistol; Intratec AB–10, TEC–22 Scorpion, TEC–9, and TEC–DC9; Kel-Tec PLR 16 pistol.The following MAC types: MAC–10, MAC–11; Masterpiece Arms MPA A930 Mini Pistol, MPA460 Pistol, MPA Tactical Pistol, and MPA Mini Tactical Pistol; Military Armament Corp. Ingram M–11, Velocity Arms VMAC; Sig Sauer P556 pistol; Sites Spectre. All Thompson types, including the following: Thompson TA510D, Thompson TA5. All UZI types, including: Micro-UZI.
SHOTGUNS: Franchi LAW–12 and SPAS 12. All IZHMASH Saiga 12 types, including the following: IZHMASH Saiga 12, IZHMASH Saiga 12S, IZHMASH Saiga 12S EXP–01, IZHMASH Saiga 12K, IZHMASH Saiga 12K–030, IZHMASH Saiga 12K–040 Taktika; Streetsweeper; Striker 12.
BELT-FED FIREARMS: All belt-fed semiautomatic firearms including TNW M2HB.
Now I am far from a firearms expert. As a matter of fact I do not currently own a gun although that may change in the near future. However, I am smart enough to recognize the terms pistol & shotgun and figure out (as if I didn’t already know) that the Democrats in Congress and the “gentleman” in the White House are willing & prepared to use the tragedy of Sandy Hook Elementary to spit all over The Constitution and take a major step toward a complete gun ban in America. I feel sorry for anyone who has been under the delusion that it can’t happen here. It can and it is. Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.
I did not watch one single second of President Obama’s second immaculation, but apparently the big controversy is that alleged singer Beyonce lip synched the national anthem. Look, I’m not stupid…I know lip synching isn’t unusual these days. It is likely that a vast majority of what one sees at the average rock concert nowadays is phony. It’s not about the singing anymore it’s about the show…the lights, the pyro, the choreography. But I am kind of old-fashioned when it comes to the anthem. Being chosen to perform at a Presidential inauguration is an honor no matter what kind of jackass the person being inaugurated might be. It’s a ceremony full of tradition & class. Is it too much to ask that our national anthem be treated with some level of reverence & admiration?? For God’s sake Beyonce…you’re singing The Star Spangled Banner at the U.S. Capitol in front of the leader of the free world and a virtual who’s who of national statesmen, not performing Put A Ring On It at the MTV Awards. Have some respect.
Finally. After over a year we have entered hallowed ground…The Top 10. This will be the last group of five, as I will give each of the top five movies their own entry. Part of me is actually a little sad that this series is almost over because I have had so much fun writing it and doing a self-examination of my own tastes. We’ll do it all again in one form or another in a few years, but until then enjoy the remaining entries, and as always thanks so much for visiting my little corner of this wonderful thing we like to call The Info Superhighway. Fear not, because I have much more to say on a variety of topics.
As we have covered a few times in this series, sequels are often a very risky proposition. From a business perspective I understand why they are made, but from a creative standpoint and through the prism of the viewing public it is difficult to not fall into the trap of being lazy, repetitive, and uninspired. Too often we see sequels that are just retreads of the original…same stunts, same gags, same jokes, same effects. Or worse yet, the powers-that-be try to make a sequel where few of the original actors or characters remain and they are only borrowing a broad concept or theme with very loose ties to its predecessor. The Godfather Part II is not a victim of any of these issues. It is quite possibly the greatest sequel ever made. It was the first sequel to win the Academy Award for Best Picture, a feat that has only been matched once since with 2003’s third part of the epic Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Return of the King (movies that will likely make it onto this list next time around). Mario Puzo’s 1969 novel The Godfather is the source material for both the first and second movies in this trilogy and is a great read. I recommend the book to anyone who enjoyed the movies. However, this is a rare case where I must say that the greatness on film exceeds what one finds on the written page. Part II is fascinating, as it shows us two different stories at the same time. We follow Al Pacino‘s Don Michael Corleone as he moves the family business to the left coast in the 1950’s, making his home in Lake Tahoe while simultaneously trying to become a major player in Vegas, which of course mirrors the real life exploits of infamous gangster Bugsy Seagal. Meanwhile, in turn of the century Sicily we see little Vito Corleone‘s parents killed and his escape to Ellis Island. The adult Vito is then played by Robert DeNiro in a performance that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the only time that two different actors (Marlon Brando got the nod for Best Actor in the original film) have received Academy Awards for the same role. Vito gets married, has a family, meets new pals Tessio & Clemenza, and quickly rises from small time NY City hood to nationally known, feared, and respected organized crime boss. Flash ahead to the 50’s and we see Michael’s attempt to bring his empire to Cuba, his double cross of rival gangster Hyman Roth and Roth’s henchman The Rosato Brothers, United States Senate hearings with Michael as the chief target that mirror the real life Kefauver investigation of the mob, and the revelation that Michael’s older but dimmer brother Fredo betrayed him which resulted in an assassination attempt and ultimately ends up with Michael having his own brother murdered. I love love love Al Pacino and this movie is neck & neck with Scent of a Woman as his best role. In the original Godfather film he shares the spotlight with Marlon Brando and James Caan, but here he goes toe to toe with DeNiro in what may be his best role as well. The supporting cast is superb, with Talia Shire, Robert Duval, and Diane Keaton returning from the first film and acting legend Lee Strasberg coming out of retirement to portray Hyman Roth. My favorite character though might be Frank Pentangeli, a Corleone family caporegime who replaces Clemenza, a development dictated by a dispute with the actor who played Clemenza. Frankie Five Angels is just tremendous…funny, ham-handed, erratic, and most of all unique. I am not sure Part II would have been quite as good with Clemenza as it ends up being with Pentageli. The flashback sequences with the younger Vito are done completely in Italian, a risky move by director Francis Ford Coppola that pays off. Emulating real events like the coup in Cuba, U.S. Senate hearings, and the mafia infiltration of Las Vegas is a nice touch. There are a significant number of people who rate the The Godfather Part II above its predecessor and say that it is the only sequel in movie history that is actually better than the first film. I can’t go that far for reasons which I will eventually explain. Nevertheless it is an extraordinary achievement and those responsible for it…Coppola, Puzo, Pacino, DeNiro, and many others…can be very proud of what they were able to accomplish. The story arc of the rise & fall of Michael Corleone is truly one of the most inspired ideas in cinema and has been endlessly entertaining for me and millions of others for over 35 years.
9 Die Hard
I know I have said it before but it bears repeating…I am not an action flick aficionado. Most anything starring Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Van Damme, Seagal, or Chuck Norris just doesn’t frost my cupcake. I have never seen a James Bond film in its entirety. Indiana Jones has never graced a screen big or small in my presence. But as with any rule there are exceptions, and this is the biggest one of them all. 1988’s Die Hard finds Bruce Willis starring as John McClane, a NY City cop whose marriage is on the rocks because his wife took a corporate gig in Los Angeles and now lives there with the kids, estranged from her husband. She invites him out to the Left Coast for Christmas to visit the children and maybe smooth things out. However, upon arriving at the wife’s company Christmas bash near the top of an unfinished skyscraper McClane finds himself the lone wolf fighting against a contingent of foreign terrorists who invade the party, kill the CEO, and hold everyone else hostage. The bad guys are unaware of McClane’s presence and even when he does make himself known he does not reveal that he has the skills to fight back. Soon enough the LAPD and the FBI are involved. There is lots of shooting and explosions, but thankfully they are accompanied by a good story and surprising levity for an action movie. I think maybe that’s why I like it…the humor sets Die Hard apart from others in the genre, who tend to take themselves too seriously. Don’t misunderstand…Die Hard is a serious movie about terrorism and one man’s battle to save the life of his beloved wife, but along the way we get airheaded FBI agents (agent Johnson and Special Agent Johnson), a limo driver that personifies the generation gap between himself and McClane, and the Dad from Family Matters, an 80’s sitcom best known for its nerdy star Urkel, who bonds with McClane over the two-way radio. We also get Hans Gruber, one of the most memorable villains in movie history. Gruber is portrayed by Alan Rickman, who is widely known today as Professor Snape in the Harry Potter films. But in 1988 he was an unknown who ended up creating such a great character. It is implied that Gruber is a ticked off German who has taken over Nakatomi Plaza for political reasons. However, we eventually learn that he is nothing more than a thief whose goal is to steal a half billion dollars worth of bonds, destroy the building making everyone think the terrorists perished as well, and escape with the loot. It is an ingenious plan, and Gruber seems to know everything that will happen. He especially knows the playbook of the police and the feds, who are portrayed as predictable buffoons. But what he and his men don’t plan on is the “fly in the ointment” named John McClane. Willis was a television star at the time, coming into our living rooms each week alongside Cybill Shepherd in the detective rom-com Moonlighting. He had done a few forgettable films, but it was Die Hard that made him a star and he has continued to ride the wave for over 20 years. Die Hard, in my opinion, is the gold standard of action movies. It has just the right mix of drama, action, humor, suspense, good writing, and excellent performances. It is not gratuitously bloody, and it is just plausible enough for the viewer to suspend disbelief and become engrossed in the story and characters. 1988 was, of course, long before the tragic events of September 11, 2001, and for that I am thankful if only because Die Hard would likely never get made in a post-9/11 world. McClane has resurfaced in three sequels with plans for yet another, but those efforts have been hit & miss. I keep using the phrase “lightning in a bottle”, and it applies here as well. Countless films have borrowed elements of Die Hard in the last two decades, and I suppose imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But I have yet to stumble upon a knockoff that comes anywhere close to being as good as the original.
8 The Star Wars Trilogy
Yes, I know…I am kinda sorta cheating just one more time. In pondering the three original Star Wars movies…Episode IV: A New Hope, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, and Episode VI: Return of the Jedi…I just couldn’t find a sensible way to justify any type of separation. It is true that most fans of the trilogy will say that The Empire Strikes Back is the best of the three and that Return of the Jedi comes in third. But I cannot look at these three films as separate entities. The story is an arc with huge themes of good vs. evil, destiny, vengeance, justice, fear, anger vs. patience, self-sacrifice, and betrayal. There are elements of religion, philosophy, and mythology so intertwined yet so subtle that the films may be enjoyed as simple popcorn entertainment by some and appreciated on another level by those who like to ponder life with a deeper, more esoteric thought process. Writer/producer/director George Lucas was heavily influenced by a number of sources, including the Flash Gordon comic books and movies of the 1930’s, the samurai films of Akira Kurosawa, and Joseph Campbell’s 1949 book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. I am making the assumption that most adults have seen the trilogy and know the basic story, but…just in case…allow me to summarize. Star Wars and its sequels is the story of Luke Skywalker, a young man of meager means who is thrust into an ongoing adventure involving the battle between The Rebel Alliance, a resistance group that desires to restore The Republic, and The Empire, which is what has become of The Republic under the tyrannical rule of Emperor Palpatine. One must remember that this story was written and the movies made in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, so there are obvious parallels to The Cold War and the ongoing battle between The United States and The Soviet Union. Throughout the trilogy we are exposed to a plethora of memorable characters…Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Pricess Leia, Chewbacca, R2D2, CP30, Hans Solo, Jabba the Hutt, Lando Calrissian. I could go on and on. I have never been a big fan of westerns, but what Star Wars does is take many of the elements of the typical western and utilize them in a futuristic space motif. It is a concept brilliant beyond comprehension. Lucas has done some other notable films…The Indiana Jones Series, American Graffiti, Hook, Howard the Duck (well…okay…maybe that isn’t such a great example)…but his crowning achievement is most certainly The Star Wars Trilogy. Over 30 years since the story was first introduced to the public these three films are still among the world’s most popular. They pop up on television all the time and people like me, who have seen them dozens of times, still watch. Earlier this decade when Lucas was preparing to launch a new prequel trilogy…Episodes I, II, and III…the excitement and anticipation reached a fever pitch. People waited in line days in advance for tickets. Unfortunately the prequels did not live up to their predecessors, but honestly how could they?? They aren’t really bad films, especially the third, but there was no way they could possibly approach the greatness of the original trilogy. Every new generation that is introduced to The Star Wars Trilogy embraces it which is a testament to the timelessness and superb quality of the story. And make no mistake…it IS the story. Are there any truly special performances here?? Not really. The only acting that was ever critically recognized was Sir Alec Guinness’ Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Episode IV: A New Hope, and even that was likely more a function of his legendary status. Most of the other actors involved have had middle-of-the-road, mildly successful careers but are still primarily known for their roles in the trilogy. The only exception is Harrison Ford, who over the course of the past three decades has become one of the biggest movie stars in the world. So one must conclude that the enduring appeal of these movies is the epic nature of the tale itself.
7 Apollo 13
This is what NFL scouts might call at quick riser, a movie that has improved its stock the most in the shortest amount of time. Released in 1995 and based on the true story of NASA’s 1970 “successful failure”, Apollo 13 is a film that I honestly didn’t pay that much attention to when it first came out. Looking back I have to assume that is due to the timing. June of 1995 was a bad month, one that I look back on almost daily as a negative turning point in my life. So I guess I was engrossed in my own drama and didn’t make it a priority to go to the theater and pay money to watch tragic events of others’ lives. But over the course of the past 10 years I have discovered its greatness and become familiar with the real life situation. Directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, and Bill Paxton as astronauts whose planned mission to land on the moon goes horribly awry, Apollo 13 is just the sort of movie I can truly embrace. It is beautifully written, has understated, moving performances, and the direction by Ron Howard is magnificent. I don’t usually recognize the function of the director because honestly I am not familiar enough with what a director really does and what his/her role is in the final product. But here one can easily see that this story, in the hands of someone else…maybe James Cameron (Terminator, Titanic), Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Gladiator), Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs), or God forbid as a Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer production (Bad Boys, Pearl Harbor)…would have been completely different and likely lacked the subtlety and class brought into the mix by Howard, aka Lil Opie Cunningham, who turns it into something better than a cookie cutter action flick. Two supporting performances, Ed Harris as flight director Gene Kranz and Kathleen Quinlan as astronaut wife Marilyn Lovell, were nominated for Academy Awards. The film itself was nominated for Best Picture and Howard for Best Director. Somehow all four of these awards went to others. Braveheart won Best Picture and its director, Mel Gibson, won that award. Kevin Spacey was Best Supporting Actor for his role as Keyser Soze/Verbal Kint in The Usual Suspects. And Mira Sorvino was Best Supporting Actress in some movie no one remembers. I suppose many may disagree, but it is my contention that Apollo 13 was robbed and should have won atleast 3 of these 4 awards. Harris’ performance is especially exceptional and cemented his status as one of Hollywood’s most underappreciated actors. Various television stations show Apollo 13 quite often, and I almost always stop whatever I am doing to watch, which in my mind is the mark of a really good movie. There is a scene near the end of the film where the fate of the astronauts is in question for about 3 minutes. This plays out in real time and is very dramatic. Since this is a true story I know what happens, and even if it wasn’t a true story I have seen it enough times that I know how everything plays out…yet every single time I watch I get goosebumps and am on the edge of my seat. Now THAT is a great movie.
6 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
This is an oddity simply because it is the third movie in a series, and while traditionally the third movie in a series is better than the second (which is usually a poorly written, hastily produced money grab in response to the public’s love of the original) it is unusual that it would outrank the first. I suppose on most lists the tradition would hold true here, as the vast majority of folks would likely opine that 1983’s Vacation, where we first meet The Griswold Clan, is the best in the series. But by now loyal readers know of my fierce passion for Christmas movies, and that is why Christmas Vacation ranks higher than its parent film, which is 13th on this list. Clark, Ellen, Rusty, and Audrey don’t actually go anywhere this time. They stay home to host a good old-fashioned Christmas for the extended family, which includes Clark’s parents, Ellen’s parents, and the elderly Uncle Lewis & Aunt Bethany, though their exact relationship is never explained. Showing up unexpectedly is cousin Catherine and her redneck husband Eddie, along with two of their small children. Fans of the Vacation series will recall that Catherine & Eddie and their brood make a memorable appearance in the original, and Eddie turns out to be the big star of this film. There is too much goodness for me to go into detail here, but suffice to say that Clark proves himself to be as big of a buffoon as usual, all the grandparents are nuts in that special grandparent way, and Eddie’s antics are the icing on the cake. Virtually every scene in this move has become legendary, from the oversized Christmas tree that Clark stubbornly determines is going in the living room, to Eddie cleaning out his RV’s toilet in his bathrobe, to the 25,000 lights with which Clark adorns the house. As a matter of fact, every December channels like HGTV and The Travel Channel have shows featuring wacky, over-the-top, gaudy Christmas light displays from across the country, and I’d be curious to know whether those kinds of garish exhibits were always around or if Christmas Vacation was the impetus for an odd new holiday tradition. I remember the first time I ever saw this movie, and there is a scene where Clark crashes a saucer sled oiled up with some sort of food varnish that he supposedly invented straight into a WalMart. At the time we did not have a WalMart in my hometown and it was just becoming a big deal. I remember thinking “Man, I wish we had a WalMart”. I laugh at that thought now since WalMart has become such a ubiquitous part of every day life. At any rate, Christmas Vacation has quickly become part of the pantheon of great Christmas movies, one of the half-dozen or so that everyone watches annually. It isn’t high art and it isn’t supposed to be. It is fairly innocuous entertainment, and that’s just fine by me.