Thursday, February 12, 2009

"First you think of an idea that has already been done. Then you give it a title that nobody could possibly like..."

Shuk and Kyle Team-Up: The Best Movies of Our Lives, Part One: 1979 - 1985

This fulfills my contractual obligation (we're getting paid for this, right?) to mention that, because I'm staggeringly old, my picks start in 1979, while Shuk's commence in 1981.

Kyle's Picks: 1979 - 1985

I just wanted to go on the record here that these nominees are what I would consider the most satisfying films of a particular year...which, to me, means "best" (it's what allows me, short of some serious cognitive dissonance, to make Superbad the 4th best movie of 2008).

1979 Nominees:

Mad Max: the original Mad Max, mind you (i.e. with the Australian accents, not the dubbed American version). Sure, it's low budget; sure, there isn't much plot to it (as near as I can tell, it's (SPOILER ALERT): man meets girl, girl is murdered by vicious biker gang, man goes out and viciously murders the biker gang, credits), but, man oh man, is it ever entertaining. I remember that the first time I watched it (probably ten years ago by now), I was overcome with a sense of dread almost immediately after the film began--the gang was too unsettling, and their leader (Toecutter, played pitch-perfectly by Hugh Keays-Byrne, who apparently capitalized on the success of this film by making the bold decision to never appear in another quality movie) too unstable for something awful not to happen to Gibson or his wife. Then, when it does happen, you sort of let your guard down, only to be treated to an absolutely riveting final act (complete with possibly the darkest final five minutes of any movie not named Requiem For a Dream).

Time After Time: H.G. Wells and Jack the Ripper traveling through time plus a foxy Mary Steenburgen in one of her first film roles--what's not to love here? Nothing, Shuk. Nothing.

The Muppet Movie: awesome movie, with some surprisingly meta moments that, no doubt, completely went over my head when I was five (notably: their story is the movie they're making at the end--suck it, fourth wall).

Being There: meh...this is here almost by default, since I can't stand Apocalypse Now and haven't seen Kramer vs. Kramer (yes, I'm in law school). I know some people--my father, in particular--adore this film, but put anyone other than Peter Sellers in the role of Chance and no one would ever have heard of this flick.

Breaking Away: my cursory research for this project reveals that this won Best Picture at the '79 Golden Globes, a surprisingly shrewd move by the HWPA (the Oscar went to K v. K).

Winner: Breaking Away: just a delightful movie, which, at its core, is an incredibly simple story about a father and a son who can't relate, class divisions, and (somewhat improbably) cycling. (Also: check out how awesome the original poster is, with what almost looks like a typographical error.) Heartwarming without being treacly, and, my sense is, it resonates just as much now as it did thirty (!!) years ago. (On AFI's List of the 100 Most Inspiring Films, released in 2005, it's a respectable #8--inexplicably: one spot behind The Grapes of Wrath--easily one of the five most depressing films I've ever seen--and five spots ahead of Hoosiers. Note that if you did, in fact, cry while watching Rudy Shuk, you're going to sob uncontrollably with this revelation: Rudy finished 54th...four spots behind Seabiscuit.)

Remember when Hollywood made good sports movies...or even good coming of age movies, Shuk? Of course you don't. Me neither. By my count, the last great sports movie was Friday Night Lights (which came out five years ago) and the last great coming of age movie is, what...Billy Eliot? In 2000?? Now I'm bummed out. Time to cue up Hoosiers...

Movie from 1979 that I really should've seen by now: (tie) Manhattan (and I just saw Annie Hall over the Christmas break) and Kramer vs. Kramer.

Mark: Well, we're off to a good start. I haven't seen three of the five films on your list, and one of the two I have seen (Muppet Movie) I haven't seen since I was about five. Impossibly, I haven't seen Mad Max, though I have seen Road Warrior (in high school history class, of all places). I greatly enjoyed Being There and really, Peter Sellers is straight-up awesome. There isn't much this guy couldn't do. He definitely belongs on the short list of greatest actors of the 20th century. And if you want to be REALLY depressed, check out ESPN's list of the best sports movies ever. It is truly reprehensible from start to finish, with some jaw-dropping omissions. For one instance, no Slap Shot.

Now, since I wasn't alive in 1979, here's what my top five WOULD have been: Alien (surprised you didn't include it), Being There, The Jerk, Muppet Movie (I'll presume it was as good as my young mind remembers) and the winner, Monty Python's Life Of Brian. Truly a brilliant comedy.

Kyle: no Karate Kid--inexplicably--on that ESPN list from years back. I was positive Simmons' head was going to explode, but I don't think he even mentioned it. I've enjoyed the Alien series (of the three I've seen) and probably should've include the first one ahead of Being There...but neither movie made much of an impact on me. Can we pause and high five ourselves for not including Apocalypse Now anywhere among our ten from 1979? I'm just so happy about that.

1980 Nominees:

Superman II: aka, the only good film in the series (I refuse to argue about this).

Raging Bull: is it fair for me to knock an admittedly awesome movie for being unrelentingly bleak? Possibly not. Nevertheless...I'm going to. I like Raging Bull quite a bit, but I've resented it's status as the "best sports movie ever made"--in large part because it's not really a sports movie at all. DeNiro and Pesci are both excellent, and the ilm is thoroughly devastating, but it's not as if anyone is coming back to this movie three or four times a year.

The Empire Strikes Back: of the original trilogy, this is the only one I really like.

Ordinary People: I know that, in some circles, OP is viewed as sort of a fraudulent Best Pic winner (the consensus seems to be that Raging Bull was far more deserving), but I feel like this movie is unfairly maligned. The four main performances--Mary Tyler Moore (as, more or less, the worst human being in the world), Donald Sutherland, Timothy Hutton, and Judd Hirsch--are uniformly spectacular, and the story itself (which, make no mistake, if done today would absolutely be a horrid Hallmark Hall of Fame Sunday night movie) is quite moving in places. Accordingly, I'm going to deem it one of the few Best Pic winners that is actually underrated.

The Shining: not perfect by any stretch, but legitimately terrifying (sometimes, even for reasons having nothing to do with Shelley Duvall's face).

Winner: Superman II: prior to 2008, this was my #1 superhero movie of all-time. Now? It's a solid #3 behind The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Superman II nails virtually everything, including righting a couple of the major wrongs from the original (too corny, bad villians, an ending--Supes reversing Earth's rotation to turn back time to save Lois--that serves to nullify the entire film...if not the franchise). The Kryptonians (General Zod, in particular) are actually scary (and serve as an excellent reminder of how dangerous Superman, were he constituted differently, could actually be to the planet's survival), and there are at least two scenes that are genuinely chilling (Zod confronting the President in the Oval Office and, later, a depowered Superman getting brutally beaten in a Metropolis diner, as a horrified Lois looks on).

The only misstep (aside from Hackman continuing to inexplicably camp it up as Lex Luthor) is the inclusion of Margot Kidder (as Lois Lane), who, despite (what I assume are) her best efforts, cannot act her way out of a Daily Planet-issue brown paper bag. Oh...and the amnesia-inducing kiss that closes the film. That was worse than the ending to Taken. [waits for high five]

Movie from 1980 that I really should've seen by now: (tie) The Elephant Man and Atlantic City (I know. I suck.)

Mark: My best of 1980...Airplane!, Caddyshack, Empire Strikes Back, Raging Bull (even though I wouldn't even put it in Scorsese's top five) and, the winner, The Shining. My favourite Shining story was when me and the guys were watching it for the first time back around 2003, and we were all pumped to watch this legendary horror flick. We inserted the disc into the DVD player, only to watch the drive immediately open up against after initially going into the machine. After a moment of silence, my friend Bryan chimes in with a perfectly-timed, "Oh my God, the movie is haunting the DVD player." Honourable mention goes to Superman II and a movie that I loved when I was seven, The Gods Must Be Crazy (I've never seen Ordinary People). I'm obviously not as keen on Superman II as you are. Honestly, Donner's original vision of having one epic movie that incorporates both Superman I and II would've been a better idea, since it could've cut the fat from both pictures. Campy Luthor literally ruins the movie for me. How is it possible that we're 2-for-2 on movie Jokers and 0-for-2 on movie Luthors. Shouldn't Lex be a slam-dunk role for a good actor?

Kyle: excellent question. I mean, Spacey is perfectly serviceable as Luthor (importantly, he actually manages to convey real menace, particularly during the scenes on his yacht at the end and pretty much everything on that Kryptonian continent, which: worst superhero scheme ever). I like your list, although it's sort of miraculous how remarkably poorly Caddyshack has aged, isn't it? I caught it a month ago on cable and Carrie was very much, "wait, this is the movie that everyone thinks is hysterical?"

1981 Nominees

Chariots of Fire: not, admittedly, a transcendent script, but it's very watchable...and has one of the all-time great scores.

The Road Warrior: ...not to be confused with the WWF tag team. Great movie, even better than the original (the less said about #3, the better), with a final half-hour that's completely mind-blowing. Fun fact (which I may have already mentioned here): the final line of the movie ("he exists now only in my memory") is identical to the final line in Titanic which is either a loving tribute, or James Cameron being a huge doucher.

Raiders of the Lost Ark: definitely falls under the "I first saw this when I was five and I thus love it unconditionally." (It's the same reason Starlight Express is my favorite play.)

Gallipoli: wow, three years and three Mel Gibson entries. At this ra--wait, this is actually the final Mel Gibson entry on the list. Arguably, this movie has the best non-twist ending ever.

An American Werewolf in London: sorry, Das Boot, you probably deserve to be the fifth nominee here. I just like Werewolf more. Contains possibly the coolest music cue ever, wherein Van Morrison's "Moondance" kicks in, followed by David (the aforementioned American werewolf) has sex was the hot nurse in every room in her apartment. (In retrospect, this makes us using it for the mother-son/father-daughter dance at our wedding slightly creepy.)

Winner: Raiders of the Lost Ark: after Carrie and I went to see Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull and I was so disgusted I could barely speak, Carrie was adamant that, if I went back and watched the first three movies in the series, I'd discover that they, too, were extraordinarily campy (and not particularly good). With all due respect to my wife (whom, I hope it goes without saying, I love dearly) and with the exception of IJ and the Temple of Doom (which, as it happens, is extraordinarily campy and not particularly good), she is dead wrong here, as Raiders, 28 years on, remains a classic.

Movie from 1981 that I really should've seen by now: Reds

Mark: I apparently missed the boat on the Mad Max series. As I mentioned I've only seen Road Warrior once, back in high school, so I may have been more concerned with catching a few z's before last period shop class. Now, logically speaking, if there's another Indy movie on the way, it should be outstanding due to the series' great-blah-great-blah pattern. And let's at least hope it's an INDY movie, not fucking Mutt Williams.

Kyle: really having a tough time picturing you in shop class. Speaking of strange movies to watch in class, I saw The Gods Must be Crazy (which I recall being awful) over two history classes and the first hour of Highlander (!) in Grade 11 English. Ah, high school. So awesome.

1982 Nominees

Blade Runner: released in '82, but set in 2019, I firmly believe that if you ask someone who had never seen/heard of it now, they'd think it was released far closer to the latter date than the former. It's a grim masterpiece...and one of my all-time favorites.

ET: as I've maintained for fifteen years now: this movie is horribly overrated (though I have no doubt that it's one of the five best of this particular year).

Fast Times at Ridgemont High: a veritable who's who of people that would later become quite famous (Sean Penn, Eric Stoltz, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicolas Cage, Anthony Edwards, Forest Whitaker, and Judge Reinhold)...and Phoebe Cates. This movie is probably best remembered for its terrific soundtrack (although, ironically, the most memorable track--"Living in Stereo"--aka "the song that plays while Reinhold pleasures himself in the bathroom while dreaming about Cates" isn't on the album).

Tootsie: pretty sure this is going to be your pick, so I'll be brief: I don't quite buy all the hype surrounding Tootsie. I mean, it's undeniably good, but, unlike many, I don't think it rises to the level of great.

Diner...I guess. Jesus...really?? Man, that's a weak crop of movies in '82!

Winner: Blade Runner: and, with respect to every other movie released this year, it's not even particularly close. I just got the 5-disc BluRay set and the movie is even better than I remember (though I remain steadfast in my refusal to accept that, in Scott's Director's Cut, Deckard is supposed to be a replicant, which I think makes all of Deckard's very cool interactions with potential replicants pretty redundant).

There's a great line that closes the BR entry in David Thomson's highly readable Have You Seen...?: A Personal Introduction to 1,000 Films (although not so readable that I actually bought it, though I spent a good hour going through it at Borders) where Thomson, after raving about the film for 1,000 or so words, notes: "Blade Runner was not nominated for Best Picture in 1982, with Gandhi being the eventual winner. That is the only mention of Gandhi in this book." BAM! As you're about to find out, I haven't even seen Gandhi, but that's funny.

Movie from 1982 that I really should've seen by now: Gandhi

Mark: No comments on Fast Times? I also don't buy the 'Deckard is a replicant' reading of the film, since otherwise the movie makes a good deal less sense. Sometimes it's best if the director just shuts up and lets everyone interpret his/her movie in different ways. btw, how in the world was Rutger Hauer so good in BR and then he went on to be in nothing but forgettable dreck for the next 25 years?

Kyle: man...I'm mortified that I didn't mention Hauer. Add "Roy Batty" to the list of "characters who couldn't possibly be played by anyone other than the person that played them." His final scene is so well-acted that it never fails to almost make me cry. He was really good in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002) and also Sin City (2005), but, yeah, that's a looooooong drought, with lots of shit parts (by my count, according to his imdb profile, about sixty of them).

1983 Nominees

The Right Stuff: the second this film lost Best Pic to the saccharine Terms of Endearment, the Academy should've packed it in...as in forever (sample excerpt from that press release: "it's really your fault for letting us continue after we gave Best Picture to How Green Was My Valley over Citizen Kane. How the fuck did everyone let this go on for another four decades?? We're obviously totally incompetent...")

Risky Business: do you know who directed RB? No, you do not. It's Paul Brickman...who has done absolutely nothing of consequence in the intervening 25 years. (Seriously: check.) I re-watched this in the summer and it holds up quite nicely as a dark fantasy.

The Big Chill: now, obviously, this movie couldn't possibly resonate with us as much as it did with our parents generation, so my praise will be on a far narrower basis: it seems to really nail the whole "old friends getting together for a weekend" dynamic. (The counter-example is the awful beyond belief Margot at the Wedding.) Seeing Glenn Close and William Hurt (great here) ham it up on the so obviously making-it-up(-and-not-at-all-well)-as-we-go-along Damages is surprisingly painful.

A Christmas Story: the second best Christmas movie ever, trailing only Love, Actually (is so).

WarGames: This may well be my Vanilla Ice moment for the movie team-up, but screw it, I love WarGames.

Winner: The Right Stuff: ironically, though the improvements in special effects would make this film far more visually appealing in 2009, this movie could never be made today. The Chuck Yeager storyline would've been scrapped (or, worse, Yeager would've been played as a cocky asshole); it would've been directed by Michael Bay; and the astronauts would (to the extent they would be depicted as individuals at all) all hate each other. It would look absolutely gorgeous...but would be completely empty. What makes The Right Stuff so great is that director Phillip Kaufamn wasn't afraid to make this big movie about small things: Yeager's envy, Grissom's bitterness, Shephard's assuredness, even Glenn's wife's shyness. (Also: terrific poster.) A near-perfect movie.

Movie from 1983 that I really should've seen by now: The King of Comedy

Mark: I've seen King of Comedy, and it's a very tough omission from my 1983 list. It's a real departure for both Scorsese and De Niro, particularly De Niro --- he's made such a career out of playing 'Robert De Niro,' especially in the last 10-15 years, that it's kind of stunning to see him playing an actual character....especially a character that's basically David Arquette. Ok, that tears it, I've apparently been living a wasted life since I've never seen The Right Stuff. Let's face it, the Oscar has been awarded to the actual best picture of the year maybe a half-dozen times in the Academy's 80+ year history. All I hope for now is that the winner isn't terrible (I'm looking at you, A Beautiful Mind). Fun fact: Philip Kaufman wrote 'The Outlaw Josey Wales,' has a story credit for 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and directed the very well-received 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being' and 'Quills.' Interesting career. And don't worry about WarGames, I liked it too. I also enjoyed the War Games, the old WCW five vs. five steel cage match. Gratuitious YouTube clip: Sid Vicious misjudging the height of the cage and nearly breaking Flyin' Brian Pillman's neck.

Kyle: My nominees aren't finalized, but I think my top pick for each year is, and, so far as I can tell, only once does it coincide with the film that one Best Picture. Not sure whether to be horrified or delighted. Five vs. five in wrestling? That's just such an odd number. Was Bischoff planning some sort of XBA I'm not aware of?

1984 Nominees

This is Spinal Tap: hilarious...and one of the three or four most quotable movies of my lifetime.

The Terminator: better than T2.

The Natural: this one, much to my dismay, has not held up nearly as well. This has a fair bit to do, I think, with the recently released director's cut, which stupidly re-arranges the opening seqeuence (making it far less engaging in the process) and adds (restores, really) so much material to the first act that the movie seems interminable. Still, even in this bastardized form, there are more than enough chill moments (striking out the Whammer, knocking the cover off the ball, the final sequence) to push this into contention.

The Karate Kid: I won't lie, as I get older, it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook the fact that the film's ostensible hero (Daniel LaRusso) is a whiny bitch for a good 95% of the film.

Footloose: admit it...you love this movie.

Amadeus: so far as I can tell, this is the first movie I've included that's on your list of shame, so, much to delight, you can't criticize anything I say here. (Suck it.) This isn't going to be my pick for the year, but I do think it was a worthy Best Picture winner. Question: has anyone had a worse film career after being nominated in a lead acting category than Tom Hulce? Arguably no (though give Halle Berre ten more years and it might be a real horse-race). In Hulce's defense, I think his emphasis these days is on theatre.

Gremlins: re-watched this with Carrie over the Christmas Break and, my God, is it ever twisted. Can I retroactively call Child Services on my parents?

Note: this is the point where we'll have to stop this collaboration, since me choosing seven nominees for '84 (and still somehow leaving out Ghostbusters), will undoubtedly cause Shuk's head to explode.

Winner: This is Spinal Tap. This allows me to, once again, grouse about comedies being totally ignored by the Academy (the last true--otherwise, you could make a pretty strong case for Shakespeare in Love--comedy to win Best Picture? Annie Hall in...1978!). That really does drive me crazy, especially since making good comedy is so much harder than making good drama. Anyway, I digress. Spinal Tap deserves high marks for putting mockumentaries on the map (without it, we probably don't get Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman), but, historical impact aside, it's outrageously funny in its own right. It's worth getting the DVD of the film for the audio commentary alone--which is done in character--wherein the band trashes the film's director (Rob Reiner as Marty DiBergi) for making them look like idiots. Just a terrific movie.

Movie from 1984 that I really should've seen by now: (tie) Once Upon a Time in America and The Killing Fields

Mark: SEVEN nominees and you STILL didn't pick Ghostbusters? Good lord. Behind Footloose?! The overlong [Kyle: only the director's cut!] and trying-too-hard Natural? The ruined-by-Bill-Simmons'-constant-jokes Karate Kid?! The now-laughably-dated-and-in-no-way-better-than-T2 Terminator?! I think my head just exploded. Spinal Tap is a very worthy winner, but man, not even including Ghostbusters on the list is a Dark Knight-esque snub job. I think Hulce is topped in the 'worst post-nomination career' tournament by his very own co-star, F. Murray Abraham (FMA, to his fans). And Abraham even won! Somewhere, Salieri is pumping his fist over the fact that the actor playing him got the last laugh over the guy playing Mozart. I think hindsight being 20-20, the Oscar should've gone to Albert Finney in 1984, just to break his unfortunate 0-for-5 career nomination record. btw, Sam Waterston has a lead Oscar nomination to his credit? Who knew?

Kyle: Waterston is supposed to be excellent in The Killing Fields, but, yeah, they definitely kept his movie career under wraps, didn't they? Thank you for comparing me to the Academy, by the way--if you'll excuse me, I'm just going to go run out into oncoming traffic. In retrospect, this is a pretty egregious omission, which I'm now officially chalking up to me being extremely underwhelmed by first hour of Ghostbusters 2 that I caught on AMC last month. All of that said, I'm frankly stunned you prefer T2 to the original. The story is the first film is just so compelling (unless you saw the second one first, I'm calling bullshit on you being able to spot the third act twist), whereas the second one, while cool, is pretty much just a special effects showcase.

1985 Nominees

Back to the Future: this was my first time travel movie...and I was utterly transfixed. It led me to conclude (erroneously, it turns out) that all time travel movies would be awesome (I'm looking at you sequel to the movie I'm actually talking about, Timecop, The Time Machine, Kate & Leopold, and Lost in Space). Did you know that the studio was very close to cutting the seminal Johnny B. Goode scene from the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance? Apparently, it tested through the roof, and was thus saved.

Goonies: probably indefensible. So be it.

Teen Wolf: [pumping my fist]. Fine, I'll say it: anyone under the age of 40 who claims not to like this movie is being disingenuous. How I never went out in a yellow Beavers uniform (wolf or wolfless) for Halloween is beyond me. Plus, making it one of my five nominees allows me to link to this (written by Pasha Malla, a high school buddy of mine) for the upteenth time. And, for good measure, here's the spectacular final ten minutes of the movie (in German, no less!), including "Win in the End," the absolutely out of nowhere song that never stops being awesome...and the exposure/innocent non-exposure goof (you decide) in the film's final five seconds. Finally, here's the awful original trailer to the movie, which thinks so little of the audience that they refer to the main character as Michael J. Fox (and not Scott Howard) and contains approximately 1.5 seconds of basketball footage.

Rocky IV: possibly the most rewatchable movie I've ever seen.

Brazil: here by default (I needed a fifth nominee). I'll be honest, I don't quite get this movie, but I appreciate Gilliam's ambition in making it.

Winner: Back to the Future: I'm not even sure I can talk about this movie rationally, it's just so damn well executed, with something to please everyone: scifi fans, romcom enthusiasts, action junkies...hell, even car lovers (though, according to David Halberstam in The Reckoning, which I'm just about to finish, the DeLorean was an absolute piece of shit). Is there anything else to really say? Doesn't everyone love BTTF? I'm assuming it's your pick, Shuk.

Movie from 1985 that I really should've seen by now: Prizzi's Honor

Mark: Yeah, don't worry, you'll be hearing more about BTTF on my list. We can instead discuss how you put the horrifying uneven Brazil on your list under any circumstances. The only redeeming factor of that movie was Michael Palin's brilliantly creepy performance as Pryce's boss, which marked the first of two times in four years that Palin should have gotten a supporting actor Oscar nom. As for the Teen Wolf costume, there's still time! You could try an ambitious half-Wolf, half-Scott outfit if at all possible. I'm also surprised you didn't mention the recent case of Buccaneers guard Greg White legally changing his name to Stylez G. White in tribute to the Teen Wolf character.

Kyle: I'm pretty amused that I get a pass on Teen Wolf, but you've chosen to excoriate me for Brazil. You're right, it is wildly uneven, but it looks so good that I'm almost (almost) willing to forgive it. (Also: you don't love the mindfuck at the end just a little bit?) At any rate, it's a distant 5th on my list.


Shuk's Picks

1981.....Raiders of the Lost Ark
: It's hard to make a really fun movie. You can make an action-packed movie, a funny movie, a gripping movie, etc. but it's hard to capture that ever-elusive feeling of sheer goofiness for an entire 90-120 minutes. 'Raiders' does it in spades. Two great quotes about the film; first, from Roger Ebert's review: "Spielberg was old enough (34) to have the clout to make the film, and young enough to remember why he wanted to". The second comes from a source I used for an old film class essay about 'Raiders' which essentially stated that while Spielberg and Lucas claimed the Indy series as an homage to old-school pulp novels and swashbuckling adventures, they were actually undermining their own achievement in creating the singular action-comedy that only the Indy series can provide. This marks the last time that George Lucas was humble about anything. The movie also gets bonus points for inspiring this legendary Simpsons opening.

Runners-up....

Blow Out: I'm going to lose all of my film student street cred for saying this, but I prefer this Brian De Palma-directed remake to the original Michelangelo Antonioni version. This may be due to the fact that I grew to hate Antonioni thanks to writing a paper on him in second-year World Cinema.

Chariots of Fire:
The U.S. Congress passed a law in 1982 requiring you to hum the Vangelis score to yourself whenever you're out running. Or, in my case, when you think about running but then spend the afternoon on the couch watching Family Guy reruns.

Gallipoli:
Whoa, flashback to high school history class! Remember when Mel Gibson wasn't crazy?

Ragtime:
I've seen this story in its original novel form, on film and on the stage, and it's good every time, though the movie is probably the weakest version of the three. Fun fact: the musical version I saw on stage in North York starred Brian Stokes Mitchell, perhaps best known for his role as Frasier Crane's upstairs neighbour/nemesis Cam Winston.

Most notable movie I haven't seen: Atlantic City. I have a strong feeling that might go as high at #1 if/when I actually get around to seeing it. I'm a big Burt Lancaster fan. One of the real forgotten/underrated stars of the 20th century.

Kyle: one year and one match, plus we hit on two out of the other four, and the most notable flick we haven't seen. I hereby cancel the remainder of the project, since it'll be totally redundant.

I don't really have anything else to add, except: (1) haven't seen Ragtime, (2) you don't like Blow-Up? Wow. I mean, yeah, it's a bit overrated, but there's a lot to like there; and (3) your Ebert quote about Spielberg reminds me of something I read in Empire a few months back. Apparently, young Spielberg was, around this time, desperate to direct a Bond movie, but the Broccoli family maintained that he was too much of an unknown entity to be given that much responsibility. Deflated, Spielberg moved on to other projects. So the story goes, after he won everything imaginable for Schindler's List, he called again, and asked (kinda dickishly) if his lack of notoriety was still an issue, only to be told that no director should ever eclipse the series, and was thus rejected for being too famous. So it goes.

Shuk: With a few more stinkers like Quantum of Solace, the Broccolis will be begging Senor Spielbergo to ride in and help once again save the franchise. And I don't 'hate' Blow-Up, but I don't love it. The actual concept is pretty brilliant, though perhaps best realized in Coppola's The Conversation in 1974, which tweaks things a bit but still retains a similar premise.

1982.....Tootsie
: Tootsie's quality is even more impressive if you consider how close this movie came to dying in development hell. It went through a bunch of directors and writers before finally settling on Sydney Pollack and Larry Gelbart as the duo who could best massage Dustin Hoffman's ego...um, uh, er, ah, I mean, bring the story to the big screen. That's the ticket. But, in the tradition of troubled productions like Casablanca, Gone With The Wind and Radioactive Man, the end result was gold. Hoffman, for all of his dickishness, was one of the best actors in the world in his prime, and the high-concept hook of Hoffman in drag works because the 'Dorothy Michaels' character is totally convincing even though you know it's actually Hoffman. Tootsie even pokes fun at Hoffman's reputation, like in the scene where his actor character asks for motivation in an audition to be a grape in a Fruit Of the Loom commercial. Not to be forgotten is the great supporting cast --- excellent comic character actors like George Gaynes, Teri Garr (who was robbed of an Oscar by castmate Jessica Lange, btw), Dabney Coleman, Charles Durning, Pollack himself and of course the great Bill Murray. I believe I read somewhere that virtually all of Murray's lines were improvised, or at least Gelbart just left blank spaces in the script that read 'Bill says something funny here.'

Runners-up....

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Tough call in making this only a runner-up, though it does hold a special place as one of just two movies to ever make me openly cry. The other is coming up in the 1990's portion of the list. [Kyle: is it The English Patient?]

Fast Times At Ridgemont High: Can you believe that I only just saw this two months ago? My favourite line is Ray Walston's bewildered, "Am I hallucinating?" when Spicolli gets the pizza delivered to class. Lots of people mention this aspect of the film, but I literally cannot believe that Sean Penn (great actor, noted humourless douchebag)'s breakout role came as a goofy stoner.

Rocky III: I had to have one Stallone movie from 1982, and whereas 'First Blood' is just unintentionally hilarious to watch today, 'Rocky III' is both unintentionally hilarious but still a good movie. Carl Weather and Mr. T both deserved supporting actor nominations.

Star Trek II, The Wrath Of Khan: I could write about how this is a great movie no matter if you're a Trek fan or not, but instead I'll just say KKKKKKKHHHHHHHHHAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNN! p.s. this new J.J. Abrams version of Star Trek looks like an abomination.

Most notable movie I haven't seen: I've been told that My Favourite Year is totally right up my alley, and since I do enjoy Peter O'Toole, it seems odd that this one has slipped under my radar for all these years. I've also seen Blade Runner, though I'm not sure if it was the original, the director's cut, the super director's cut, the final cut, the 20th anniversary edition, the 25th anniversary edition, the super happy fun ball edition, etc. It's ironic that the movie about replicants ended up having so many replicants made from the original.

Kyle: hmmm...scratch that redundancy point. (I looked up your list of shame to see if BR--my pick--was on it, since, so far as I know, you never talk about it. This confirms that you have, but you should definitely watch it again, since YOU DON'T EVEN HAVE IT IN YOUR TOP FIVE FOR THE YEAR! Sorry.) I like Tootsie just fine--though, truth be told, I barely remember it, and should perhaps heed my own advice and watch it again--but I wasn't nearly as blown away with it as I was by your revelation that Dustin Hoffman was once (and still is?) renowned for being a huge doucher. Benjamin Braddock? Really?? It seems so incongruous. (Tangent: I remain thoroughly annoyed that "high-concept" means the exact opposite of what it should mean.)

Anyway, I like that Murray got the Neil Flynn treatment on the set (or is Flynn getting the Murray treatment? Hmmm.) Haven't seen Star Trek II (or, indeed, any of the Star Trek movies...to the point where the totality of my ST knowledge comes from the Seinfeld episode that introduces the Ross Foundation--it was actually on last night--and Carrie.) That said, I'm looking forward to JJ's version. Care to illuminate on why you're lukewarm? Also: next to Rocky V, III is the worst. Once again, let's recap: Rocky's plan was to let Clubber Lang punch himself tired? And everyone agreed this was a good idea? Why not just move around a lot? Would that not have accomplished the same thing, minus the blunt force trauma to the skull? Huge hole. (And, yeah, I realize that applying logic to a film series about boxers where never once--in six films--does a boxer attempt to block a punch is a little unreasonable. Still...)


Shuk: If it makes you feel better, I had Blade Runner on my 'next five best of 1982' list. I believe the version I saw was the much-criticized 'Harrison Ford does a voiceover and there's a happy ending' version that the studio foisted on Ridley Scott, which then led to the five thousand other versions in subsequent years. Perhaps I need to see the director's cut to really bring it to life for me. Re: Rocky III. Rocky's strategy is actually the very common rope-a-dope strategy most famously used by Muhammad Ali against George Foreman. It's not a bad technique if you're tough enough to withstand that kind of punishment, but then again, Ali ended up with Parkinson's, so it wasn't a total win.

Now, Star Trek. I was actually a huge Trek fan from about 1993 to 1998. I really got into TNG in its last season, went back and watched all of the syndicated reruns and read a few 'guide to the Star Trek universe' books which gave me a pretty broad knowledge of the original series, Deep Space Nine and Voyager despite never actually watching any of them regularly. I guess what I liked most about the Star Trek concept was that they *didn't* do remakes. It would've been easy and profitable to keep retelling the stories of Kirk, Spock and company for years, but instead Gene Roddenberry created the next generation of characters and every subsequent series built on that. If the Trek series was going to be rebooted, so to speak, I'd ideally like to see it keep to its roots and maybe move things forward a century (since TNG, DS9 and Voyager all happened about a century after the original series, so this would keep that process going).


1983.....The Dresser: An outstanding character piece about an aging and increasingly senile actor preparing to go on stage as Lear, though one of the running jokes is that since his troupe does a different play each night, he has trouble remembering exactly which role he's preparing for. This is one of those movies that was well-received at the time (Oscar nominations for picture, director, the two lead actors and script, winning none of them) but seems to have relegated to the dustbin of history. The relationship between Sir (Albert Finney) and Harold (Tom Courtenay) is essentially Burns and Smithers except treated seriously. It's a great little movie for Shakespeare buffs and anyone who's ever been involved in a stage production.

Runners-up....

A Christmas Story: I'll admit it, I'm shocked that this didn't take the top spot for 1983. Is it possible I've just seen it a few too many times?

Monty Python's The Meaning Of Life: I hated this movie when I first saw it 13 years ago, but have some to appreciate it a lot more since. It veers wildly between way over the top and subtle, or at least subtle by Python standards. My favourite bit is Palin and Idle as the two guys struggling to explain why they're both dressed in a tiger costume in the middle of the jungle.

Never Say Never Again: Perhaps my favourite Bond movie. Connery returning to the role in the midst of Roger Moore's increasingly silly movies was like if all of Wings got food poisoning before a big concert, so McCartney had to call on George, Ringo and John to fill in.

Trading Places: Can we end this list with "Looking good, Kyle!" "Feeling good, Mark!"

Most notable movie I haven't seen: Terms of Endearment. For those of you who know James L. Brooks only as the producer of The Simpsons, he won an Oscar for directing this Best Picture winner.

Kyle: wow...not only have I never seen The Dresser, I'd never even heard of it prior to yesterday. (Carrie has seen it. Her verdict: "funny.") As it turns out, The Dresser was directed by Peter Yates, who also directed Breaking Away--my pick for the Best Movie of 1979. Yates, who turns 80 this year (and who also directed Bullitt in 1968), had a hell of a run between '79 and '83, receiving eight Oscar/GG nominations (winning one) and then proceeded to nothing of consequence for the next twenty-five years. Odd that.

Not as odd (wait, did I say "odd"? I meant: "unforgivable"), of course, as you not having The Right Stuff as one of your nominees! (Apu voice): Oh, you have got to be kidding sir...[later]...was on the bestseller list for eighteen months! Every magazine cover had... [later]...most popular movies of all time, sir! What were you thinking?!"


Also, I'm about to blow your mind grapes: I've never seen Trading Places.

Shuk: Well, I've never seen The Right Stuff, so we're even in our mind-grape-blowedness. Most directors' career seem to emulate that of NFL running backs. They can get really hot in a short period of time, but then burn out just as quickly. Going by his IMDB profile, Yates appears to be the Bam Morris of his time.

1984.....Ghostbusters: From my post last year pitting Ghostbusters vs. Back To the Future...

The Ghostbusters franchise has given me joy for almost as long as I remember. I watched the cartoon as a five-year-old, and then on a chance trip to a K-Mart, noticed one of the TVs showing four men with proton packs that looked suspiciously like my animated heroes. Wait a second...there was a Ghostbusters MOVIE?? My young mind was blown. My adolescence was geared around Ghostbusters for the next several years --- I had the toys, dressed up as a Ghostbuster for Halloween, and perhaps most publicly, used to play my own Ghostbusters games during recess at grade school using a pair of sticks as props. This seems weird even in hindsight. Let's just say my school didn't have a child psychologist. (Hell, I still have those two sticks to this day. I keep them around as good luck charms. This may seem unusual, but if I said that I got luck from a severed foot from a bunny, nobody would bat an eye).

I have no doubt that a good portion of the John Dearness population between 1985-1991 remembers me just as 'the Ghostbusters sticks' kid. But regardless, GB is the movie I've seen more than any other in my life, with a guesstimated 200 viewings. I can pretty much go line-for-line if I'm on a hot streak. It just doesn't get any better than the likes of Murray, Aykroyd, Moranis and Ramis all cracking jokes and trying to stop a giant, anthromorphic marshmallow from destroying New York City. Bonus points are added because the legendary 'Real Ghostbusters' cartoon was actually even better than the film and its sequel. Just great stuff all around. While writing this, I went to YouTube and fired up the Ray Parker Jr. theme song AND the "Saving The Day" song from the scene when the Ghostbusters are driving to Dana's apartment and the street caves in on them.

Runners-up....

All Of Me:
Steve Martin should've been Oscar-nominated solely for the scene when he's trying to walk down the street with Lily Tomlin controlling half his body. Remember when Martin was actually in funny comedies, and not awful remakes of Peter Sellers movies?

The Muppets Take Manhattan:
My favourite of the Muppets films. It might be because of the shocking resemblance between my cousin Shelly and her husband to the waitress-and-producer couple in this movie. The most underrated highlight of the movie is Jim Henson's hilarious amnesiac-Kermit-as-an-ad-executive voice.

Stop Making Sense:
Best concert film ever made. Nothing else is even close.

This Is Spinal Tap:
It was a tough call to go with Ghostbusters over this one, since as much as I just rambled on about how GB impacted my life, Spinal Tap is arguably the better movie. It's one of those rare comedies that doesn't just stay funny, but actually gets funnier on repeated viewings since you pick up on even more jokes.

Most notable movie I haven't seen:
Amadeus. It won the Best Picture award and F. Murray Abraham and I share a birthday. I really need to get around to watching this.

Kyle: I'm going to go ahead and assume you've already raked me over the coals above for not including Ghostbusters on the list, so I'll be brief: the sticks. I'm still sort of confused. Were they suppose to represent a proton pack? If so, why did you have two? Were you supposed to be two Ghostbusters? Did you ever cross the streams? (Unrelated to the sticks: why is it written as "Ghost Busters" in the first movie, but as one word everywhere else...including ads for the first movie?)

All of Me is a good pick (this Steve Martin situation is seriously bumming me out. Didn't quite see it coming. He must have a serious gambling problem), as is MTM (great film), and the rest (though, as you know, I still haven't seen SMS), but I'm kind of shocked you didn't make room for Karate Kid, Gremlins, or The Natural. My working theory is that you were so addicted to Ghostbusters that it sucked up all the other time you would've allocated to other movies from '84 (though you probably didn't start watching GB until '86 or '87).

Shuk: Hey, 1984 was a good year. Those are three good choices, but I like my nominees just a bit better. Okay, the sticks. The beauty of the sticks was that they were catch-all props. They could represent a ghost and the proton pack blast hitting said ghost, one was kind of curved so it resembled the handle of a ghost trap, and they could represent other characters (though I was usually the only Ghostbuster in my little stories). I weaved quite a rich tapestry in my nerdiness. The reason for the "Ghost Busters" and "Ghostbusters" anomaly is that the cartoon used the latter version, so the first movie's title was retconned. I think it had something to do with the British 'Ghost Busters' cartoon that featured Larry Storch and a talking ape.

1985.....Back To The Future: So, yes, in that aforementioned Ghostbusters vs. BTTF post (it earns a double link since I put more thought and work into that post than at least half of my university essays), I concluded that while GB was the overall better franchise once you factored in cartoons, video games, etc., the original Back To The Future is overall the best movie of the bunch. And really, BTTF is a natural choice as the ultimate movie of 1985, if for no other reason than the year itself becomes a key plot point. If you took a drink every time Marty or Doc said '1985,' you'd be dead before the Enchantment Under The Sea dance even starts.
So yeah, Back To The Future. It's more or less the perfect movie. Tightly plotted, great acting (nobody could've played Marty and Doc but Fox and Lloyd, and Thomas J. Wilson and Crispin Glover gave career-best performances), funny, suspenseful, a great love story, great music, sci-fi, a period piece and a fucking flying, time-traveling car. Check and mate. It's a movie that I could show to my grandmother or to my neighbour's six-year-old and they'd both enjoy it equally. BTTF could be released tomorrow and not seem even a hint dated. That said, I'm dreading the inevitable remake in 2015 starring (oh I dunno, let's say) one of the Jonas brothers as Marty and Sam Jackson as Doc Brown.

Runners-up....

Anne of Green Gables: Technically a TV movie, but I'm obliged as a Canadian to include it on the list. It cannot be stated enough how far Megan Follows hits the role of Anne Shirley out of the park.

Clue: That's right, it's based on the board game. It featured three endings that differed depending on which ending the theatre you saw it in decided to arbitrarily show that night. I applaud the filmmakers for deciding to just say 'fuck it' and make a movie about a board game as absurdly awesome as possible.

Fletch: The role that Chevy Chase was born to play. [Kyle: see also above comments re: Martin, Steve.]

Witness: I was kind of surprised to learn that this was Harrison Ford's only Oscar nomination, but on second thought, I guess he hasn't really done a whole lot of other "actorly" roles that would get Oscar buzz.

Most notable movie I haven't seen: Technically it should be Best Picture winner Out Of Africa, but let's be honest, the real answers here are The Goonies and Pee Wee's Big Adventure, which I somehow missed for my entire childhood.

Kyle: Agree completely re: BTTF. I adore this movie. I believe it's also the only movie in history featuring a DeLorean to be referenced in the State of the Union. I especially ike that we're both dorky enough to reference the Enchantment Under the Sea dance by name.

Ford should've been nominated for Blade Runner, no doubt. Nothing else really comes to mind. There's a rumor circulating that he's Spielberg's choice to play Andrew Johnson in the upcoming Lincoln biopic (which is only slightly less strange than my fake rumor that Clay Aiken was going to play Franklin Pierce).


Never seen Clue. Is one ending markedly better than the others? If it were deemed Oscar-worthy, would it have to pick one ending for submission? And since I'll probably never have another chance to talk about Clue on the blog: isn't it a massive design flaw that you have to (unless you're playing Family Feud rules and some unlucky person is a non-playing host) check to see if your own answer is correct...and that you're eliminated if you're wrong? This stinks. (Also, I found this enjoyable: Wikipedia lists "deduction" and "dice rolling" as the two "skills required" to play the game. Sounds about right.)

I have, however, seen Out of Africa. Start with Goonies.

Shuk: It's been so long since I've seen 'Clue' that I actually forget what the endings were, except that one of them concludes with Mr. Green saying "And now I'm going to go home and have sex with my wife!" Given that AMPAS probably would've exploded if they had nominated the Clue movie for anything, I guess it's a moot point. And you're right about the Clue game. It's a surprisingly unsatisfying board game to play...I had a version of it for my old Commodore 64 that worked much more smoothly. Ideally you'd almost have to have a non-playing 'host' to moderate. I wouldn't be that much of a drag, since every Clue game takes no longer than 15 minutes and you could just rotate.

2 comments:

garnishthemonkey said...

On the topic of Teen Wolf, one of the best spoofs ever by Summer of Tears...they really nail the drama of the film:

http://www.funnyordie.com/videos/1e5af33246/teen-wolf-from-summeroftears

Hal Incandenza said...

oh, man, that was hilarious. Thanks for the link.

How have I never heard of Summer of Tears before?