Tuesday, March 17, 2009

"People say: You must have been the class clown. And I say, No, I wasn't. But I sat next to the class clown, and I studied him..."

The Best Movies of Our Lives: Part Three (1992-1997)

previously: 1979-1985, 1986-1991

Kyle's Picks

To borrow a line from "Bartlet for America" ("I would like our ten-minute breaks to be closer to fifteen minutes than they are to a half-hour"), I'm going to try not to stray quite so far from the three-sentence maximum for non-winners.

Mark: Don't worry, I go over three sentences as often as a judge that's tough on crime.

1992: A Few Good Men: ok, so, as much as I love this movie, I think I have enough distance from it now to say: is Cruise's plan at the end not colossally stupid? Even though the film holds up after many (many, many) late night viewings, I think I'd like the ending just a little bit more if he had some sort of backup plan (aside from crying and running out of the courtroom) should the Jessup thing fail. Anyway, it's a great movie (wish I'd seen the play), and making it my pick allows me to link to a classic Bill Simmons column (back when he was funny, as opposed to just whatever the hell it is he's doing now) where he uses quotes from AFGM to summarize the 2001 NBA season (part one and part two).

Mark: Excellent selection, it made my runners-up list. I think it was established that Cruise was flying by the seat of his pants and that if he hadn't hit a home run with that final gambit with Jessup that he was going to lose the case anyway, so why not go for broke? [Kyle: you mean, aside from being court-martialled?] It was basically the exact opposite of what happened with Marcia Clark, Christopher Darden and the infamous phrase "Hey, let's have him try on the glove."

Other nominees...

A League of Their Own
(switch with AFGM?): torn here, since this could really be my #1. I'd argue/have argued that it's the 3rd* best sports movie ever. I like this film so much that I even included a reference to it in my personal statement to U of T Law (the part where Geena Davis tries to quit the team because it's too hard to play and maintain a family and Tom Hanks fires back “It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The ‘hard’ is what makes it great.”) Awesome.

= ok, technically I put it at #2 back in June '08, but that seems pretty indefensible now (it's not better than Friday Night Lights).

Reservoir Dogs:
better than Pulp? The older I get, the more I lean towards yes. It's certainly not as showy, but it's a tighter movie.

The Player:
my first Altman movie. Aside from the opening shot (the long tracking shot with--in signature Altman fashion--numerous overlapping conversations), this is probably rather more run-of-the-mill than I'd like to remember, but Robbins really carries it through.

Glengarry Glen Ross: maybe the meanest movie of my lifetime (or Kids, though GGGR has the distinction of, you know, actually being good). Few films have ever done as good a job as this one at conveying sheer desperation (the way they coveted those leads still makes be shudder). I'd be remiss, of course, if I didn't mention that Jack Lemon's portrayal of Shelley Levene is said to be the basis for Gil Gunderson from The Simpsons (my favorite character).

movie from 1992 that I really should've seen by now: Malcolm X or Last of the Mohicans

Mark: Have you ever noticed that a lot of 'best sports movie ever' lists omit A League Of Their Own, or at most mention it with a "Pfft, Madonna and Rosie O'Donnell playing baseball? Shyeah right!" type of comment? I think some people are just biased against women's sports in any incarnation.

Dude, c'mon, Reservoir Dogs better than Pulp Fiction? I don't think so. They're playing on two different levels.

I'll end this Oreo of criticism with a final layer of tasty cookie agreeability by saying that I really, really need to see Glengarry Glen Ross. Something tells me I'll love it. My favourite GGR reference was an old SNL skit with Alec Baldwin as a tyrannical head elf in Santa's workshop whose motto was 'Always Be Cobbling.' Also notable for the fact that Baldwin slips up and says 'closing' at one point, thus causing the elves (yes, one of them was Jimmy Fallon) to crack up.

Kyle: ok, now that I've seen my Reservoir Dogs > Pulp Fiction in print, I'm regretting it. If forced to stand by it, I'll say that nothing in RD is unnecessary (no Butch's French girlfriend, no Gimpesque "wtf?" moment) and that it builds relentlessly to a pretty kick-ass climax. Yeah, ok...not very convincing (though I disagree entirely that the two are on completely different levels).

1993: Dave: maybe my sleeper pick of the series (or '94). A part-time POTUS lookalike secretly becoming the actual President when the real President falls ill, Kevin Kline at his charming best, Sigourney Weaver at her absolute friskiest, Frank Langella as a first-rate foil, and Charles fucking Grodin? Seriously, what's not to like here? How this only rates a 6.8 (I know, I know, I'm too invested in these ratings) on imdb is beyond me. This is a terrific movie. Of particular note is the scene where Dave single-handedly (some might say preposterously) balances the budget so that the First Lady's childcare initiative can be saved. I love that scene.

Mark: OH HELL YES. I thank you for giving Dave this recognition. It killed me to leave it off my 1993 list since it's such a good comedy and Kevin Kline is a personal hero of mine. I like this pick so much that I'll overlook the fact that you referred to Sigourney Weaver as 'frisky.'

Other nominees...

The Fugitive: one of the all-time "it's on TV so I need to watch it from whichever point it's at and see it all the way through to the end." This movie never stops being awesome.

Groundhog Day: not a lot to say that hasn't already been said (is this your pick for '93? I'm guessing yes), so I'll ask this: how much time do you think goes by in the movie? Before you answer, remember that Phil Connors learns how to play the jazz piano professionally, speak fluent French...and claims to have died every way imaginable. (If you've heard this before and know the answer, pretend my question was "if you didn't already know, how long would you estimate that Phil was trapped on February 2nd?")

In the Name of the Father:
this is all DDL (not sure if I can name another actor in the movie without looking it up) and he's flat out tremendous here. (Oh, turns out Emma Thompson was in it, too. My bad.) Is there a better secretly awesome director than Jim Sheridan? Here are some of the movies he's directed (see if you can spot the one that doesn't seem to belong but was, indeed, directed by him): My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father, The Boxer, In America, and Get Rich or Die Tryin'.

a very good film that, if I'm not mistaken, I have not seen more than three consecutive of since the night it was released sixteen years ago (which is somewhat anomalous compared to...pretty much every other movie I've listed). Notable for inspiring Eric Mayr and I to refer to every dingy movie theatre (Huron Market Place) as the Mustang Theatre (and don't even get me started on the Mustang Drive-In). Good (by which, I of course mean: immature) times.

movie from 1993 that I really should've seen by now:
Schindler's List (inexcusable, I know.)

Mark: Well, we need to get together and having a Schindler's List viewing party some night. I'll bring the popcorn, which I'm sure will be left cold and uneaten after the first five minutes. I should've put Philadelphia and ITNOTF on my 'must-see' list, though I agree that Sheridan is a tremendously underrated director. Gratuitous U2 mention: they have a new song on the soundtrack of Sheridan's upcoming film Brothers.

Now, Phil's time in Punxatawney...apparently, in an early draft, Harold Ramis planned to leave him there for thousands of years, but that was scaled back a bit. I'd guess four years at a minimum; one year being a jerk, one year trying to kill himself and at least two years learning piano/French and being a nice guy.

Kyle: yeah, Ramis's original plan was 10,000 years. It's actually supposed to be 10 in the movie, though they're really isn't any empirical evidence one way or the other.

*1994 (5+ movies): Quiz Show: a bit of a shocker, I'm sure. I went back and forth with this and Shawshank, but I ultimately selected Quiz Show. Why? (Seriously: why, Kyle?) Well...I was going to go off on a rant about how it was prescient in terms of predicting the baseball drug scandal (interesting...but a bit of a stretch), but I think what really gets me about this movie is that it's a great story, simply told, with outstanding performances by Ralph Fiennes, John Turturro, Rob Morrow, and Paul Scofield (the only one of the lot to get an acting nomination for this). Redford could've used the Twenty One corruption as a jumping off point for America's loss of innocence and blah blah blah, but wisely elected to focus his attention on how this affected the contestants, dirty or otherwise. Van Doren's downfall, when it comes, is incredibly moving, largely because Fiennes, in his understated way, infuses the character with so much sadness that you can't help but pity him (even though you know you shouldn't). A great movie...easily one of the most underrated of the decade.

Mark: Wow, Quiz Show? Seriously? I toyed with the idea of making 1994 a ten-movie year, but Quiz Show was nowhere near my radar screen। It had an interesting premise, but managed to make it just about as dull as possible. It doesn't help that I'm not a fan of Redford as a director. How the hell did NEITHER of us pick Shawshank?!

Other nominees...

The Shawshank Redemption: your #1 pick, I think. This is veryclose to being my #1, (it's elevated considerably by a jaw-droppingly good final thirty minutes) but, for whatever reason, I feel like I appreciate Quiz Show more.

Dumb and Dumber: This is now fifteen years old and, off the top of my head, I can only think of seven movies that have come out since that are (arguably) as funny (or funnier): The 40-Year Old Virgin, Superbad, Step-Brothers, Anchorman, Best in Show, Toy Story, and There's Something About Mary. That's pretty impressive. Lines I still use from this movie: "tell her I have a rapist's wit"; "SAMONSITE. I was way off!"; "The first time I set eyes on [insert name], I just got that old fashioned feeling where I'd do anything to bone her"; "just go man": "Harry, your hands are freezing" (and basically anything from the double glove scene). Good times.

Clerks: I'm told that this has aged remarkably poorly, but I'm too afraid to confirm this. I don't even think I care, because, at least in 1994, this was sheer genius. (Randall's CCCP hockey jersey is probably 95% responsible for me finally getting a similar T-shirt three weeks ago.)

Pulp Fiction: don't really have anything to say here. It's obviously a terrific film. Having watched it not too long ago, it's interesting how completely extraneous Bruce Willis's subplot is. Feels far more like padding than I realized at the time.

Forrest Gump: manipulative? Oh my, yes! But, hell, I still love it. Four points: (1) originally, the part was offered to Travolta (though the timing doesn't make a ton of sense, since this would've been more or less concurrent with him being cast in Pulp, i.e. his comeback role); (2) the film is approximately 50,000 times better than the book (trust me--Forrest is actually an astronaut for part of the book...awful); (3) It's become slightly tougher for me to enjoy this movie after Tony Kornheiser pointed out that it's Republican propaganda, in that the movie is an indictment of all the liberal excesses of the 60s and 70s. Think about it. (4) I feel like, for whatever reason (increase in moviegoer sophistication? Growing societal cynicism?), if this movie were released today, it simply wouldn't catch on. (Case in point: Benjamin Button, FG's nearest analog, has met with decidedly mixed reviews.)

Hoop Dreams:
winner of the coveted "Best Documentary never to be nominated for Best Documentary at the Oscars" award (largely by virtue of me not being able to name another one). This is a pretty great movie, even if it's overlong (I'd like to think that I enjoy basketball more than 999 out of every 1,000 people, but even I was ready to claw my own eyes out during minute fifteen of the uncomfortably serious third act one-on-one game between Arthur and his dad).

Speed: only a 7.2 on imdb, which is a bit surprising. After all, what's not to like here? Some good trivia: (1) Sandra Bullock's part was originally offered to Ellen DeGeneres; and (2) from imdb: "A Fox producer realized they might have a movie hit in their hands when he noticed that, during test screenings, audience members would walk backwards when they needed to go to the bathroom so they would miss as little as possible." Nice.

Having seen this on the A Channel at 4 in the morning not that long ago, here's a question (and I'm more than a little ashamed it took ten or so viewings for me to pick up on this): can you fathom why the bus needed to jump the freeway, when the police escort simply took an earlier exit? Fairly massive plot hole, no?

The Madness of King George: pretty underrated. Have you seen this, Shuk?

movie from 1994 that I really should've seen by now:
Heavenly Creatures

Mark: Ooh, Heavenly Creatures, good one. Never seen it (same with Madness of King George). 'Clerks' has actually been redeemed a bit by 'Clerks II.' The sequel lowered the bar so much that when you go back to watch the original, you're thinking, hey, this is still a pretty good flick. My guess on the Speed plot hole is that Bullock simply missed the exit; she was under a lot of stress, so it's not hard to imagine that she isn't 100 percent up on the condition of every L.A. freeway. I didn't know that about Degeneres. 'Speed' already gets enough unwarranted guff just for the Keanu/over-the-top Dennis Hopper combination; adding Ellen to the mix would've made this movie seem like a joke to modern audiences that had never seen it.

Re: Forrest Gump. 4) The difference between FG and Button is that FG obviously had a sense of humour about itself, whereas Button took itself so seriously that it squeezed the wonder out of the film. 3) From what I know of Hanks and Zemeckis' politics, I find it hard to believe that they'd make 'Republican propaganda.' The Vietnam War and Lt. Dan's pro-military attitude are criticized too. 2) You're right about the book. Its awfulness is only topped by the even worse sequel, "Gump & Co." which involves plots like Forrest coming up with New Coke. 1) That's an interesting casting tidbit about Travolta. He made the right call in going with Pulp Fiction, since 'Gump' seems like one of those movies that would've been a total disaster with anyone but Tom Hanks as the lead.

Kyle: yeah, Clerks II was a bit of a gong show, with the biggest plot hole by far being: why in the world would someone as cool as Rosario Dawson's character (who is basically just Rosario Dawson, I think) want to have anything to do with Brian O'Halloran's Dante? This makes Speed look like a real-time documentary by comparison. This, coupled with a not-very-good Dogma, a lousy Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and an only ok Zak and Miri Make a Porno really makes me wonder why Kevin Smith is still spoken of so reverentially in many circles. I mean, I dig those Evenings with Kevin Smith, too, but come on...anyway, this is probably a conversation for another time.

Mark: See, I actually like J&SB second-best of Smith's movies, but if his ceiling has currently been lowered to 'zany showbiz comedy,' it might be time to move onto something else.

1995: Toy Story: I think it really says something that, in a year that has maybe the strongest top five of the decade (no doubt you'll dispute that, but, I mean Braveheart is #6...that's solid) it took me approximately 0.3 seconds to make Toy Story my #1. RT and I were discussing this earlier in the week and we agreed that this movie, with its high concept pitch (what if all your toys were real?) has no business being as engaging as it is (this was followed by several uncharitable comments directed towards Randy Newman), but it works. This is a wonderful, wonderful film, with lots of laughs (all of Woody's catchphrases, though "someone's poisoned the watering hole" remains a favorite of mine; the stuff with the toy soldiers; and anything involving Buzz thinking that he's actually the Buzz Lightyear), but lots of heart too (if you don't well up a bit when Woody gets cast aside for the new toy or when Woody reunites with Andy at the end, then I respectfully suggest that you yourself are made of slightly toxic plastic--and not the kind that comes to life when no one is watching). Or, you know, you just haven't seen it, but that's just so laughable that I'm chastising myself for even mentioning it. Right? Right??

Mark: No complaints from me, though I have a bombshell about Toy Story that I'll save for my own list. I'll just add here that the Hanks/Allen voice casting was inspired and that I'd really love to know exactly what Joss Whedon's contributions to the script were.

Other nominees...

The Usual Suspects: I know, I know, you don't like it at all. And short of you feeling that the ending pretty much negates everything that came before it--which was (and remains) Ebert's position....he gave the movie 2 out of 4 stars, and a thumbs down--which is an argument I'm not unreceptive to, I profess to being totally mystified. (Interestingly, a script-writing book I've been reading--Good Scripts, Bad Scripts by Thomas Pope--calls TUS "a good screenplay that could've been great," lamenting that there's too much tell and not enough show--mainly Fenster and Edie's deaths--a complaint I don't exactly buy, since the reasons for this should, I think, be pretty fucking clear in hindsight. I'll also note that this is the same book that rips into The Abyss for the unforgivable sin of killing off the villain in the second act, which...whatever.) Anyway, I'll allow you to voice your concerns about the movie before I unload on you.

Apollo 13: this has been on AMC and History Channel incessantly of late (not that I'm complaining). Just a ridiculously compelling film (I'm particularly fond of the scene where they gather up the engineers and get them to devise a solution for cartridge that won't fit, using only things on the ship). Of particular note is that I watched this on opening day with my buddy Eric Mayr, who was absolutely terrified that they were all going to die, prompting me to observe that the screenplay was based on Jim Lovell's book, so...

Se7en: Re-watched this recently, and, my God, is it ever dark. The Usual Suspects and The Sixth Sense appear to have the twist ending market cornered, but, frankly, this deserves to be in the coversation. (I'm particularly fond of the film's final line: "Ernest Hemingway once wrote, 'The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part.") It also marks the last time Kevin Spacey didn't let his ego get in the way of a project.

12 Monkeys: harrowing. Bruce Willis has never been better. (Brad Pitt, too.) I especially enjoyed Gilliam's handling of the time-travelling aspect, which resisted pat answers and confronted paradoxes head-on (we'll call that the anti-Timeline).

movie from 1995 that I really should've seen by now: Babe

Mark: Oh shit, I forgot about Babe. Probably wouldn't have made my top five, but it certainly deserved at least a mention. And, in terms of an overall strong top five, I might have to go with 1993 or 1994 over 1995.

But enough about that, let's get down to bashing The Usual Suspects! I don't *hate* it per se, since I'd only hate a movie that I never found compelling. TUS works perfectly well the first time you watch it and it's an effective twist in that sense. My problem is, if you watch the film a second time, then suddenly 75% of the movie is completely pointless. There's probably a post-modern argument in there somewhere about how it's ironic that I'm complaining about watching a movie featuring a character telling a made-up story while realizing that I'm voluntarily watching a made-up film, but man, don't sell me that bulljive. A truly great twist leaves you wanting to watch the movie again so you can see the clues left pointing towards the denouement and essentially get a whole new viewing experience out of it. TUS just doesn't provide that at all since the Byrne/Baldwin/Del Toro/Pollack segments are now completely fictional. The mark of a truly great movie is its ability to stand the test of time, and TUS doesn't even make it to the second showing.

Kyle: Alas, I don't particularly disagree with any of this (see my comments for 1997).

1996 (I'm taking six here, but not counting it as one of my bonus years, since I inadvertently forgot my initial favorite for '96, and went with Guffman): Swingers: wow...completely my bad for leaving this one out. Watched it not too long ago and I'm pleased to report that it's as entertaining as ever. (Seriously, no supporting actor nomination for Vince Vaughn here? That's a travesty. And that he hasn't done anything remotely Oscar-worthy since isn't a valid argument.) Swingers is probably the definitive pre-drink movie...and since I can't really talk about this movie without effusively praising it (seriously, it's not pleasant), I'll limit to myself to the following observation: Mikey: big loser or biggest loser in cinema history? Those are your only choices. Count the number of cringe moments: (1) everything that happens to him at the blackjack table; (2) the way he orders his scotch at the casino; (3) "we're not in Kansas anymore"; (4) "I'll have the pancakes in the Age of Enlightenment"; (5) busting in on Tre and his new lady friend in the trailer to check his messages; (6) rebuffed by the girl who asks what kind of car he drives at the house party; (7) embarrassed by the girl he's hitting on in the bar later that night when it turns out he tried to apply for a job at her Starbucks two weeks earlier; and (8) miraculously gets her number, only to blow any chance he has with her the second he gets home when he leaves six messages on her answering machine (arguably the most uncomfortable non-sexual scene in movie history). The only remotely cool thing he does is swing dance with Heather Graham (hey, remember Heather Graham? She was kind of awesome for a while there...), and even that, based on what we've seen in the preceding 80 minutes, isn't completely enjoyable, since you assume he'll somehow botch that too. It really is a tour-de-force performance by Favreau.

Mark: Solid choice. And thankfully, I've done only about three or four of those things on Mikey's list. Favreau's had an interesting career; Swingers, two very memorable TV guest stints (as Eric the Clown on Seinfeld and his run as Monica's billionaire-turned-UFC fighter boyfriend on Friends) and now suddenly A-list director. It's certainly more interesting than Vaughn's huge initial success at basically playing himself here, then being in nothing but garbage for six years, then suddenly deciding to stick to playing himself and starring in a bunch of huge comedies.

Other nominees...

Waiting for Guffman (1997--played at BFF in August and TIFF in September): sure, it's not on par with Best in Show (few things are), but it's undeniably (I said undeniably, Shuk) hilarious. Of particular note is Fred Willard with the towel wrapped around his neck after performing (a bit I use as often as I can), Fred Willard recreating the end of the '61 World Series (a deleted scene, I believe) with Catherine O'Hara (his wife) as an unwilling (and utterly dejected) participant, and Corky's Remains of the Day lunchboxes. I think Misha and I watched this once a week for all of 1998.

Fargo: a lot to love here (Macy and McDormand, in particular).

Mission Impossible: an unfairly maligned series, in my opinion (except for the excrable MI:2, which is justifiably criticized). The original M:I is pretty kick ass. The thing that bothered (and bothers) me the most is that this was bagged on for being too hard to follow. Really?? I can only assume that Thief would make your head explode.

Jerry Maguire:
everything up to Cush's betrayal of Jerry is pretty terrific, then it's slow for an hour or so, then it picks up right at the end (though as Simmons pointed out in one of his podcasts, given that Jerry was in Arizona for a Monday night game, waited around for Rod afterwards, went to the airport, flew back to L.A., then drove or taxied it back to Zellweger's place, there's really no conceivable way that his tearful speech could've taken place any earlier than 3 a.m., which means: world's longest Women's Book Club meeting prior to that. And I'll add: no way that a recently jilted Zellweger isn't totally hammered on wine coolers by the time Jerry ambles in)

When We Were Kings:
next to Hoop Dreams, probably the best sports documentary of all-time (and I'll save you the trouble, Mark: the 1992 and 1993 Blue Jays Year in Review tapes do not count.) I'm endlessly fascinated by what a colossal douche Ali was back in the day (although everyone has collectively agreed never to mention this again).

Movie from 1996 I probably should've seen by now: The English Patient

Mark: I didn't realize Waiting for Guffman premiered at TIFF the year prior. Whatever the release date, it's impossible that I haven't seen this yet. Can we watch it after our Schindler's List night? I have a feeling we might need a pick-me-up.

There was a fascinating article a few years ago in SI about the long-lasting rivalry between Ali and Joe Frazier, and how to this day Frazier still holds a grudge against Ali for some of the great one's pre-fight trash talk (calling Frazier an Uncle Tom and other race-based taunts). That's the weird dichotomy of Muhammad Ali --- people forget that he was probably the most hated athlete in the world for most of the 60's and early 70's. I'm not sure there's even a modern-day comparison since so few sports have a truly worldwide profile, but imagine that you time-travel to 2030 and discover that Terrell Owens is being awarded a Congressional Medal Of Honor. That's how much of a turn Ali made in his latter years.

Jerry Maguire wins my Worst Movie The Other Guy Picked award for 1992-97. The two bright spots are provided by the whole Kush storyline (which should've been a movie of its own) and a career-best performance from Zellweger, who tries her best to salvage the love story. Just so I'm not throwing Cruise totally under the bus in 1996, yes, I did like Mission Impossible. Interestingly enough, apparently most of the original cast of the TV show (particularly Peter Graves) hate the movie due to the Jim Phelps heel turn.

p.s. My whole list is invalid since I didn't include the 92-93 Blue Jays videos. "Maldonado...OVER EVERYTHING!!!"

Kyle: No joke, I totally got a chill when you referenced that Maldonado sound-bite--amazing sequence. If we ever end up ranking...92 Blue Jays ranks right up there with the 89' Pistons and '84 Tigers video...and I fucking hated that store-bought championship team. That Owens reference kind of freaks me out.

I dunno, is Jerry Maguire really that bad? It's far from perfect, but I think the agency stuff brings something new to the table.

1997: The Game: man, I just love this movie. Unlike other twist movies, which tend to recede from view on subsequent viewings (even with The Usual Suspects, a movie I love, when I re-watch, I can't shake the feeling during the first 95 minutes of the movie that "you know, this really isn't how things actually went down...and we're never going to find out exactly how it did"), The Game holds up quite nicely, which is no small part due to Michael Douglas's fantastic work as Nicholas van Orton. His performance is so visceral--initially bemused, then intrigued, then somewhat worried, then panic-stricken, followed by demoralized, and closing with batshit insane--that you really have to hand it to him. Every time I re-watch The Game, I can't help but think: "well, how could he possibly not think he's been royally fucked over?"

As for those that bag on the ending for being implausible: (1) it's, at best, the 9th or 10th most implausible thing that happens in the movie; and (2) fuck right off. This movie is thrilling as hell, so you'd damn well better be willing to cut it some slack in its final moments.

Right down to the film's final music cue (Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," cued at the absolute perfect moment), I adore this film.

Mark: Oops, Jerry Maguire might have to give the award back. I'm one of the people that was totally deflated by the ending, since it was humming along as a perfectly good thriller until that terrible, stupid, non-sensical finale. Obligatory SPOILER ALERT for anyone who hasn't seen it, but the fact that Nicholas was literally driven to (what he thought was) suicide makes the happy ending absurd. He was DRIVEN TO THE EDGE OF DESPAIR, and yet after he sees his brother alive, he is able to shake it all off and is partying it up five minutes later? Bullshit. Being involved in a 'Game' like that would put anyone into a rubber room. Also, the Game-makers took a big risk that he would land directly onto that greenhouse; if Douglas had jumped off a different section of the roof and dropped 15 stories to the pavement, I certainly hope that Sean Penn would've been given a refund.

Kyle: again, the conspiracy is so all encompassing that they can patch in to the TV signal in Van Orton's home, drain his bank accounts, stage a car crash where it appears as though he might drown, nearly drive him insane, bury him in a Mexican graveyard, and lead him to believe that he has inadvertently murdered his own brother, and your beef is that he might've tried to face-plant off a different part of the roof? If you accept everything else, can't we just assume that they had safety nets wrapped around the outside of the building? Or that they would've tranqued him before he jumped? However, I do agree that him being in a party mood immediately after the reveal instead of being, say, hopelessly traumatized is a bit tough to stomach (awkward cocktail party conversation: "so....you try to kill yourself twenty minutes ago, eh? Douglas: [sheepishly] "um...yeah."). Question: how much would you say his bill for the Game is? I'm putting it at $5,000,000 (remember, however, that Conrad is supposed to pay the whole thing and that Nicholas only offers to split it after seeing the total--I'm going to call bullshit on the two of them going halfsies...no way is Connie that flush.)

Other nominees...

Good Will Hunting:
a near-great movie "written" by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck that's very nearly submarined by two especially (Robin Williams explaining Will's van Gogh comment--t --and the "it's not your fault" scene, which, despite being the movie's emotional centre, is awkward and goes on for too long). This also marks the last time I ever found Minnie Driver even remotely tolerable.

cliched? Check. Totally lacking in nuance? Check. Overlong? Check. But damned if the last 70 minutes aren't totally captivating. Curious to see if you'll include this (be prepared for me to call you disingenuous if you don't).

L.A. Confidential:
not unlike The Princess Bride, this is movie I feel somewhat guilty about, in that I feel strongly about it, but not nearly as strongly as some others. It's great, but certainly not perfect (coughBaysingercough). Fun fact: this is the first DVD I ever owned (...and I actually had it for two weeks before I even got a DVD player).

Boogie Nights:
a much better movie than I gave it credit for at the time (I liked it, but found the Goodfellas-esque transition from successful Dirk to hopelessly coked-out Dirk in the span of a smash cut to be a little jarring). But I caught it about a month ago and? Awesome. The ten minute montage beginning with humble Dirk cleaning up at his first Adult Movie Awards, him beginning to enjoy his fame, him cleaning up again at the AMAs, the camera sweeping around the room before stopping on Dirk, whereupon he says "thank you" and walks way, is flat-out dazzling, and probably one of the coolest sequences I've ever seen in a movie.

The Sweet Hereafter*: "everything was strange and new. Everything was strange and new." A haunting, wonderful film. Still not totally sure why Sarah Polley isn't a huuuuge star. (By choice?)

* = which was, hilariously and totally inexplicably, referenced on an episode of American Dad a couple of Sundays ago. Weird.

Movie from 1997 that I really should've seen by now: Amistad.

Mark: I hope your buddy Eric Mayr didn't get too worked up during the last hour of Titanic. "OH NO! They hit an iceberg?! How will they salvage the ship??" I'm not the biggest fan of Boogie Nights, though I feel maybe I need to give that one a second look since P.T. Anderson's films lend well to repeat viewings. Poor Affleck, Damon and William Goldman have sworn up and down that there was no script doctoring involved, but I guess that legend will never die. It is pretty funny to read about Damon/Affleck's original pitch of Good Will Hunting as a techno-thriller.

Now, since you brought it up, and this is a bit off-topic but....American Dad: most underrated show on TV right now? It is right up there in the 30 Rock/Office/Conchords ballpark as the funniest show on TV. It's by far the funniest animated show on the air, if nothing else.

Kyle: I want to believe Affleck and Damon (well, at least Damon), I really do. But, seriously, look at their writing credits on imdb. I mean: come on. It's unbelievably fishy (though Gone Baby Gone was, in fairness, pretty good....which begs the question: who did Affleck trick into writing that one for him?).

You're bang on about American Dad. It's just terrific. (Steve has been a revelation this year.)

Mark: I don't find it so impossible to believe that Affleck is incapable of coming up with one good script every decade. It's not as if GWH was a particularly out-there plot or anything, and Gone Baby Gone was an adaptation. That said, I'm not naive enough to believe that they wrote each and every word of the script themselves. I truly believe that a Mitchell Report-esque impact could be made if someone released a list of every movie that had at least a 50-percent ghostwritten script. There's probably at least 10 films on our lists alone that were probably heavily the work of someone other than the credited writers.

(Hey, these entries weren't shorter at all!)

Mark's Picks

1992....Unforgiven: The anti-Western that stands as arguably the best Western ever, or at least the best Western (no pun intended) directed by someone besides John Ford. If there has ever been an actor who knows how to be a bad-ass, it's Clint Eastwood, and it's fantastic how the whole point of the film is that William Munny doesn't want to partake in his past murderous ways, and yet when he finally does, it's completely satisfying to the viewer. This is in part because Gene Hackman plays such a loathsome villain that my god, you just want to grab a gun and shoot your TV screen a la Elvis. Just a great movie all-around. p.s. What got into the Academy between 1991-1993? They had a three-year stretch of picking the consensus audience and critical darling for Best Picture every year: Silence Of The Lambs, Unforgiven and Schindler's List. That might be the best 'no complaints' stretch in Oscar history.


A Few Good Men: Impulsively rewatchable, which is rare for a complex courtroom drama. As much as the Cruise/Nicholson "you can't handle the truth!" scene has been parodied over the years, it still hasn't lost a bit of impact. Reservoir Dogs was a strong contender for the runners-up list, but AFGM strenuously objected to being omitted, so I had to keep it on.

A League Of Their Own: Hands-down one of the best baseball movies ever. Career high points for Geena Davis and Lori Petty, one of Tom Hanks' best roles and certainly his funniest, and also notable for being the last time Madonna was tolerable in a movie and the last time that Rosie O'Donnell was tolerable, full stop.

Noises Off: This is a personal favourite that isn't too well-known. It's the film version of the classic Michael Frayn theatrical farce about a group of actors whose own attempt to put on a farce is beset by backstage drama. The first part of the story shows you the 'proper' version of the play-within-the-play, and then you see it twice more as it gradually degenerates into chaos. Most pundits think the film version was crap, but the movie cast is terrific (Carol Burnett, Michael Caine, John Ritter, Julie Hagerty, Christopher Reeve) and unlike the play, the movie actually has an ending that ties it together a bit better.

Wayne's World: I'm sad to report that this film that gotten ever-so-slightly dated. Well, maybe a bit more than ever-so-slightly, but still, it was such a titan of comedy in my youth that it would be wrong to omit it from the list. The Stan Mikita doughnut shop might be the greatest in-joke for Canadians in movie history. And....

"A gun rack? I don't even own A gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack."
"Wayne, if you're not careful, you're going to lose me."
"I lost you two months ago! We broke up! Are you mental? Get the net!"

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Bob Roberts, The Crying Game, The Player, Glengarry Glen Ross. Yikes, this would be a lot of people's top four for the year. I need to get to a video store.

Kyle: dunno...I've always felt that Unforgiven was ponderous. Hackman and Eastwood are, indeed, excellent, but it really seems to plod along. I've actually seen it several times--since this is one of those movies that I know I'm supposed to love, but I don't, and, somewhat sadistically, this intrigues me--and I never cease to be amazed at how inert it is. That said, it's been a few years, so maybe it's time for me to cue it up again. But enough about me bashing your pick...

So glad you're on board with A League of Their Own. I agree, it's criminally underrated. Hasn't seen Noises Off, but this is like the third or fourth time I've heard you talk it up, so maybe I should make a point of renting it. As for Wayne's World, you're right, it--like virtually the entire Mike Myers catalogue (with the possible exception of So I Married An Axe-Murderer)--has aged remarkably poorly, to the point where I'm actually kind of embarrassed I ever enjoyed W'sW and the Austin Powers series (and this is coming from someone who watches Teen Wolf routinely still to this day, so obviously I have no shame). Care to comment on this phenomenon? (Jim Carrey is, of course, totally guilty of this as well, but at least we can point to Dumb & Dumber as a comedy for the ages.) In many ways, it's far more troubling (or, at least, more confounding) than, say, a Dane Cook-type, who, so far as I know, has never (and will never) be even remotely amusing.

Mark: Try this one on for size...Mike Myers is the comedy version of Joe Carter. Both were Canadian legends in the early 1990's, but as time has gone by, their work has aged poorly (in Carter's case, thanks to the OPS+ statistical measurement). The difference, of course, is that aside from a forgettable stint doing colour commentary on Jays game, Carter has stayed a fond memory for Jays fans. Myers, however, made the Love Guru, and is currently serving 10-15 years in the Kingston Pen.

Kyle: solid.

1993.....Short Cuts: After Robert Altman burst back into prominence with The Player in 1992, he followed it up with arguably the best possible example of the Altman-esque style. Interlocking plotlines, over 20 major characters, a phenomenal cast (good performances from everyone from Jack Lemmon and Julianne Moore to Huey Lewis and Lyle Lovett) and a movie so layered that I've seen it three times and still couldn't really give you a proper rundown of how the story unfolds. Only Altman could keep this many balls in the air and still deliver such a great movie. And, as an added bonus, Julianne Moore's vagina! (Insert joke about 'Short Cuts' and her personal grooming here.)


Dazed & Confused: I think it's a Hollywood law that every 20 years, someone has to make a really great 'teenagers driving around, hanging out' period piece. 1973 had American Graffiti, a.k.a. the best movie George Lucas ever made. 1993 had D&C, a.k.a. probably Richard Linklater's best movie and one of the all-time great movies for picking out future stars in small roles. I look forward to the next great coming-of-age driving movie in 2013, presumably directed by me and based on the time in 2000 that my crew went driving down Richmond Street trying to figure out what to do, and my drunken friend Eric started pointing and laughing at the rough-looking guys in the car next to us when we were stopped at a red light. I didn't realize my mother's old Toyota Prelude could move that quickly.

The Fugitive: Hands-down the best 'TV show-to-movie' adaptation of all time. Just a gripping, smart and well-made thriller from start-to-finish, which makes me wonder why director Andrew Davis hasn't made anything else even in the ballpark of 'Fugitive' in the rest of his career. Favourite random Fugitive tidbit: Mick Foley's mandible claw finishing move was invented by the real-life Richard Kimble, Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was briefly a pro wrestler after his medical career was ruined by the controversy surrounding his wife's murder.

Groundhog Day: You could air this movie 50 years from now and it wouldn't seem dated at all. Not just a great high-concept comedy, but a high-concept so, uh, high that it has entered popular language to describe any repetitive situation. As great as the script it, however, I have a feeling that only Bill Murray could have properly pulled off the Phil Connors character as well.

The Sandlot:
A tough pick over such other 1993 classics as Dave, Jurassic Park, Rudy, Remains Of The Day and Falling Down, but I could hardly ignore one of my favourite baseball movies ever. No truth to the rumour that the Monster in Lost was inspired by 'the Beast.'

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Schindler's List. Yeah, I know. In my defense, I did try to see it in theatres, but I ended up making out with my girlfriend and was ratted out by Wayne Knight.

Kyle: Hmmm...I'm lukewarm towards Short Cuts, too. You're bang on about all the moving parts, but I feel it doesn't amount to anything coherent and/or interesting. (Which, carrying the metaphor well beyond its usefulness, I guess makes Short Cuts the Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel).

Good call with your remaining picks (Sandlot = inspired choice...and only partly because it forced you to snub the--to my mind--very overrated Jurassic Park). I'd argue that Clerks, released at approximately the same time as Dazed & Confused, is a pretty good contemporary hanging out and driving around movie (although admittedly light on the latter requirement).

1994.....Pulp Fiction: Along with A Fish Called Wanda, Pulp Fiction is my favourite movie of all time. A line I once read in a review of PF is the best way to sum up the film's appeal: it would be just as entertaining to listen to as an audio book as it would be to watch on the silver screen. To use a cliche, the dialogue crackles off the page. It's funny, dramatic, tense, poignant or (in the case of Christopher Walken's monologue) all four at once. Like Short Cuts, it's the kind of movie where you can watch it a number of times and still never totally remember which scene or little gem of dialogue is coming next. Just an all-around masterpiece of directing, writing and casting. Hell, I'm so in love with this movie that I even like the actress who played Bruce Willis' girlfriend and then apparently dropped off the face of the earth. The way she says 'potbelly' is very cute.


Dumb And Dumber: To this day, I'm not sure I've ever laughed harder at a scene as I did when Lauren Holly playfully tosses some snow at Jeff Daniels, who responds by whipping a snowball into her face from about three feet away. Daniels even narrows his eyes when he's initially hit. I think it was the eye-narrowing (or the scene with the blind kid's parrot) that put D&D ahead of Ed Wood and Maverick for the last 1994 spot.

The Shawshank Redemption: Well, duh. The Academy followed up its three-great-Best-Pictures-in-a-row streak by being surprisingly on the ball in recognizing 'Shawshank' way before the general public did. The warden is the greatest in a long line of asshole characters played by the great Bob Gunton.

Speed: Or, as Homer called it, 'The Bus That Wouldn't Slow Down.' One of the best pure action movies ever made. I wonder how many hostages were shot by law enforcement officials in the wake of Speed's success?

Trois Couleurs: A bit of an explanation is needed for this one since it's technically three films in one. Polish director Krzysztof "Unplayable Scrabble Rack" Kieslowski released three films ("Blue," "White," and "Red") that work just fine as stand-alone stories but also intertwine into a truly epic overall movie experience. 'Blue' came out in 1993, but since the other two parts were released in 1994, I'm slotting Trois Couleurs into the 1994 category. This trilogy was so good that Kieslowski didn't just announce his retirement after its completion, but he fucking died in 1996 just to reinforce the point. OK, well, he may have been writing scripts at the time of his death, but still, back me up here.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Four Weddings And A Funeral, Bullets Over Broadway,

Kyle: see, now, when you teased your '94 pick as your (co-)all-time favorite, I guessed that you were a Shawshank man. Pulp, eh? Interesting. You don't seem to talk about it all that much. I like it quite a bit (and absolutely loved it at the time--fun fact: Eric Mayr and I went to see it a the old Westmount theatre, i.e. before it made it's way into the mall, and, since it was rated R, we were convinced that, being fifteen and sixteen, there was a strong chance they were going to ID us (ignoring the fact that I've only ever seen this happen once--and not to me--in the literally hundreds of times I've gone to the movies), so we decked ourselves out in UWO gear. Idiots.), but it's not a movie that I feel compelled to watch all that often anymore. Maybe it has something to do with my disappointment with Tarantino's career arc post-Pulp, maybe it's because I feel it's revealed to me all it's going to reveal, I dunno. If you told me fifteen years ago that Pulp Fiction would almost be an afterthought to me, I'd be stunned, but here we are.

The snowball scene is unbelievable (Daniels is fantastic there, but full credit to Lauren Holly, who really sells it with that horrified look she throws him after she's been hit, only to burst out laughing a second or two later). Still need to see the Colors trilogy.

Oh, man, you haven't seen Four Weddings and a Funeral? It's worth seeing for the single worst line (and single worst line reading) in history alone ("is it raining? I hadn't noticed"), which, in maybe the biggest upset in movie history, was deemed to be only the third cheesiest movie line in history (you can probably guess the other two) in a 2004 poll.

Mark: I love that Eric Mayr is now officially the Bob Sacamano of our list. That's an interesting tidbit about FWAAF --- I would've expected more from a Richard Curtis script. And that snowball scene just gets better after that, since just when you think that Holly laughing will end things, Daniels is still pissed and then proceeds to chase/tackle her down the hill. (p.s. This scene was a lot less funny in real life 15 years later when Chris Brown re-enacted it with Rihanna.)

1995.....Dead Man Walking: A very well-made film that almost necessitates a post-movie discussion. I like that the film doesn't try to point the viewer in any one direction in regards to the death penalty or whether or not Matthew is 'evil.' It merely presents the viewpoints of Matthew, his family, Sister Helen, the police and the victims' parents and lets us choose. Fun casting notes: An unrecognizable R. Lee Ermey seemingly channeling the look of Jerry Lewis as the dead girl's father, plus a couple of great 'before they were famous' roles for Jack Black (as Sean Penn's brother) and Peter Saarsgaard (as the dead boy).


The American President: Also known as Aaron Sorkin's dress rehearsal for The West Wing. I still have to remind myself that it's Michael Douglas who's the president in the scenes when it's he and Sheen playing pool. This was the 'fifth entry' on the 1995 list, edging out Get Shorty, Clueless, Se7en and Tommy Boy.

Apollo 13: Just an all-around great piece of filmmaking. Could've and should've been the Oscar winner in 1995, as it was clearly the best the nominees, but the inexplicable Ron Howard snub just seemed to kill its momentum dead and opened the door for the overrated Braveheart.

Heat: On the list of great bank robberies in movie history, the 'Heat' heist is right up there with Bonnie & Clyde, Inside Man, Quick Change and Ernest Goes To Jail. A great movie only slightly marred by the fact that a) the atrocious 'Righteous Kill' really takes the shine off of a De Niro/Pacino pairing, and b) pretty much every line of Pacino's dialogue in 'Heat' has been turned into a running joke by my pal Dave. Then again, it's hard to not laugh as a line like "Cause she's got a great ass, and you've got your head all the way up it!"

Toy Story: Not to detract from this movie's quality, since it is a legit classic, but....check this out. Holy crap. Jim Henson 1, Disney/Pixar 0.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Twelve Monkeys and Casino, though from what I've heard about the movie, the fact that I've seen Goodfellas is good enough.

Kyle: Somewhat amazingly, I haven't seen Dead Man Walking, so I can't comment. Didn't even realize that Peter Saarsgaard was in it (he's terrific--can they please get him to host SNL again? That Cat Fancy-fabulist sketch, which many people, having not seen it, have more or less accused me of making up, was sheer genius). The only pick I really object to is Heat--a movie that, as long as I can remember, has been lavishly praised for reasons beyond comprehension. Aside from the score (fanfuckingtastic) and the heist scene, I simply do not understand the hype. The thing that bothers me the most is that the film's most objectionable element (Pacino and De Niro facing off) is invariably hailed as the film's high point. You allude to the stilted dialogue above, but I feel like I need to excerpt whole chunks of it to reinforce my point:
Vincent Hanna: You know, we are sitting here, you and I, like a couple of regular fellas. You do what you do, and I do what I gotta do. And now that we've been face to face, if I'm there and I gotta put you away, I won't like it. But I tell you, if it's between you and some poor bastard whose wife you're gonna turn into a widow, brother, you are going down.

Neil McCauley: There is a flip side to that coin. What if you do got me boxed in and I gotta put you down? Cause no matter what, you will not get in my way. We've been face to face, yeah. But I will not hesitate. Not for a second.

Me: [groaning]
I'm like 90% convinced that the Homer-George Bush "trouble...for you" back and forth is based on this. As for you: why so down on Braveheart?

The Toy Story thing: wow. Hello, lawsuit.

Mark: 1. Saarsgard is in it for about a minute and doesn't really have any coherent lines, so it's not exactly his big break. It never made sense to me how people could hear a friend relate some funny bit they heard on TV and then respond with "Oh, you're making that up!" Why would they? What's to be gained by giving credit to a TV show for your own material? Why not just tell the joke yourself?

2. Pacino and De Niro are like cosmetics tainted with Smilex gas. They're fine when used apart from each other, but when combined, they're toxic. If they ever re-team for another film, let's hope they're again separated by 40 years like in Godfather II.

3. Braveheart is overrated in the context of an Oscar-winning Best Picture. It's a perfectly good movie on its own, but a Best Picture? Nyet.

4. Not to be morbid, but do you think Pixar waited until Henson was dead to get working on Toy Story since they figured that nobody else would notice?

1996.....Fargo: This was the no-brainer selection of the list, since as much as I love Pulp Fiction, at least Shawshank and Trois Couleurs were in the ballpark for 1994. 'Fargo' is as close as the Coens have come to a perfect movie. There's something for everyone to love --- heck, even my grandmother would like Fargo. She'd enjoy the Canadian-ness of the humour, in spite of the film being made by Americans and set in Minnesota. Ironically, upon the film's initial release, it seemed as if the only people who didn't like it were a small but vocal segment of hardcore Coen fans who claimed the movie was a case of the Coens selling out to mainstream Hollywood. WTF? I don't recall a lot of crime comedies set in Minnesota and featuring guys being fed to wood chippers flooding the multiplexes back in 1996, but my memory is fogging up in my old age. The film was also responsible for one of my favourite film class essay titles ever, when I claimed that Fargo was 'film blanche' (as opposed to film noir). Is it sad that my creative peak came on an 83-percent paper in 2004? Pop quiz: Cuba Gooding Jr. over William H. Macy for best supporting actor in 1996...worst decision in Oscar history? I mean, you could make the argument that Macy's role wasn't actually a supporting role so he shouldn't have been in the category anyway, but Jesus Christ man, there is no way any sober person could possibly look at both roles and give Cuba the thumbs-up.


Hamlet: Kenneth Branagh is one of the hammiest actors going, but his Shakespearian adaptations are as good as they come. This might well be the definitive film version of 'Hamlet' that has ever been made, and it has some of the best set design and art direction you've ever seen, to boot. I love that Branagh was actually nominated for a best adapted screenplay Oscar in spite of the fact that the movie was a 99.8% direct adaptation of Shakespeare's original text. Will Private Ryan fanboys try to claim that the 1998 Best Picture race was actually just a case of a makeup Oscar?

Kingpin: My other three runners-up were pretty clear choices, but 'Kingpin' beat out a number of other good-but-in-some-way-flawed movies (Birdcage, Swingers, Scream, Star Trek: First Contact, Lilies and Trainspotting) for the fifth position. What put Kingpin ahead of these other films? Bill Murray as Big Ern McCracken. Literally every moment he's on-screen is pure gold.

Lone Star: A fantastic, mostly-forgotten film noir/mystery directed by John Sayles and starring Chris Cooper, Kris Kristofferson and Frances McDormand (wow, nice year for Frances). It's the rare film mystery where you can't guess the solution in the first 20 minutes. Hell, you don't even know what the real mystery really is in the first 20 minutes.

The Rock: Hey look, it's Michael Bay's first good movie! Even a broken clock is right twice a day, folks! It's two hours of Nicolas Cage overacting, Sean Connery delivering saucy line after saucy line, and a whole bunch of stuff being blown up. It is awesome. (N.B. Could I have picked a more diverse quintet of films for my 1996 entries?)

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: The English Patient, also the most recent Best Picture winner that I haven't seen. I would've seen it long before now were it not for the threatening e-mail I received from Elaine Benes.

Kyle: Fargo is terrific, though I must admit that it was almost ruined for me by the two ladies that sat directly behind me in the theatre that thought Frances McDormand's accent was so hilarious that they laughed at every single thing she said...for two hours. Painful. Thankfully, I caught it on video later...and adored it. The only other snub that comes to mind is Halle Berry's ridiculous performance in Monster's Ball eclipsing Naomi Watts's work in Mulholland Drive (the single best acting performance I've ever seen)...oh, wait, Naomi Watts wasn't nominated for Mulholland Drive. [Bashes head against monitor]

Great call with Hamlet--I'm still not sure how they managed to film that hall of mirrors sequence without us seeing a camera anywhere. It still seems impossible to me. Kingpin, in retrospect, has no business being as funny as it is (how many artifical hand jokes can you make?), but it works every time. Murray's facial expressions during the climactic final match (complete with his hair getting progressively out of control) are timeless. Lone Star (which I really liked) and The Rock (which, aside from the car chase, I did not) in the same sentence, eh? Diverse indeed.

Mark: Note to self, rent Mulholland Drive before we do the 2000 list.

1997.....Jackie Brown: I'm not sure why one gets such relatively little respect or remembrance among Tarantino fans. It's arguably the best display of Tarantino as a filmmaker, as he deftly adapted an Elmore Leonard novel (something that's only been successfully done a few times in Hollywood history) and yet still managed to put his own personal touch on the project. It gets bonus points for reviving the careers of Pam "Inexplicably not nominated for an Oscar" Grier and Robert Forster, and for having one of the more kick-ass soundtracks of recent years.


Chasing Amy: Subtitled in recent years as 'The One Kevin Smith Movie That Isn't Suddenly Dated As Hell.' Kudos to Smith for building up Silent Bob's first big speech over three movies, and then having it pay off as well as it did. Is there a reason why Joey Lauren Adams never became a bigger star? Besides the voice, that is?

L.A. Confidential: As you may have guessed by now, I'm something of a sucker for a good film noir, mystery or crime thriller. Given that L.A.C. is all three, it was a natural inclusion.

Titanic: The movie so big that it had a backlash against it before it even opened, and then its popularity was a backlash against the backlash, and then it became cool to mock its popularity, so there was a backlash against the backlash against the backlash. BUT, over time, I think people finally realize it as being a great movie, so there's Backlash #4. Whew. And that's not even counting the one-man backlash my buddy Trevor has against the film, as he never saw it during its initial release and has subsequently refused to ever watch it.

Wag The Dog: I am 75% convinced that the entire George W. Bush administration was merely an elaborate sequel to this movie. WTD currently holds a notable place in film history as being the last great movie for both Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman.

Most notable movie(s) I haven't seen: Waiting For Guffman. This might be the most inexplicable omission on the entire list. I mean, you could maybe excuse "Schindler's List" on the logic that it's a pretty heavy movie to just casually rent one night or to flip on TV....but what reason is there for not seeing Waiting For Guffman?

Kyle: I haven't agreed with all your picks thus far, but this is the first one I've legitimately hated, because the best thing (by far) about Jackie Brown is the poster. (OK, Forster was pretty good, too. And Bridget Fonda looked great in it.) I just didn't think they're was much to this one, with Tarantino resorting to old techniques (notably: Rashomon-style multiple perspectives), with seriously diminishing returns. Case in point: there's a scene (I think it takes place in the mall parking lot) that QT decides is important enough that we re-visit it three times (well, three times total, so I guess we re-visit it twice), yet we learn absolutely nothing new from these different looks. I found (and find) this infuriating, as it showy for the sake of being showy.

I recall being massively letdown by WTD at the time, but I only watched it the one time, so perhaps I should give it a second chance. No qualms with the other three picks.

wow...Guffman is (as noted) so up your alley, too.

Mark: I enjoy how we're getting into some serious disagreements as we get deeper into the list. We're turning into Siskel & Ebert, except alive and able to speak. [Kyle: (too afraid to say anything)] I think you're exaggerating the 'multiple perspectives' angle, since to my recollection that's the only time it happens in the film. I think it was QT's way of mirroring the fact that Leonard often jumps between different characters' perspectives within scenes in his books, though it's less noticeable there since it's just a jump from one seven-line paragraph to another, not a whole scene change.

Kyle: (1) sorry, the multiple perspective thing only comes up once (didn't mean to imply otherwise), but it's absolutely as unnecessary as I suggested. (2) As for feuding, to quote Mr. Burns: "Well, Simpson, I must say, once you've been through something like that with a person, you never want to see that person again" (you're Simpson in this anecdote, Shuk).

Next up: 1998-2003

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

"Me fail English? That's unpossible."

Nice work, 24. Nice work. (Though, in fairness, this is the only the 17th most improbable thing that happened over the two eps on Monday night.)

On the plus side, the interest rate hike noted on the crawl suggests that the economy will be fixed by...wait, what year is it supposed to be again, Shuk?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

"Capitalism is ending, either because of the Soviets or of something ridiculous, like a woman president..."

(I'm obviously at a loss for a post picture, so this one--despite being a total non-sequitur in relation to what follows it--will have to do.)

2008 Greatest Hits (or something...)

Well...I appear to think I'm pretty awesome, in that I've included forty-eight posts below...and only posted sixty-two times the entire year (in my defense, three of the posts included here are year in reviews, and weren't put up until '09). Perhaps "Recapping 2008" is a more appropriate title. Anyway, off we go:

-January 11th:
Kid Nation Running Diary: re-read part of this today and, I have to say, how the hell did they not renew this show? It's priceless. (Shame it didn't air on the increasingly desperate NBC, where they would, no doubt, have made it their flagship program).

-January 30th:
The Wire: Season Four review: of note is me teasing a Wire vs. Sopranos head-to-head comparison that, thirteen months later, I still haven't started. (Don't go holding your breath for that one, all five of my readers--although, interestingly, I don't think any of my friends have watched both these programs in their entirety...Robbie, have you watched The Sopranos? If so, you might be the only one that qualifies...future team-up?)

-February 5th: Super-Duper Tuesday Liveblog: I thought it turned out fine, but it was a massive fucking pain to update every few minutes (in real time), so, yeah, I won't be doing that again anytime soon...

-February 11th:
The Moment of Truth running diary: kicking myself for not having the foresight to do this for last night's Bachelor season finale, which was both spectacular and disgraceful (you suck, Jason). Next time.

-February 20th:
Best TV Shows of the 1990s: ah, nostalgia.

-March 13th:
Best Albums of the 1990s: I remember this one taking wayyyy longer than I anticipated (the TV one, too). As a result, this "best of each decade" project has a target completion date of 2045.

-March 20th through April 8th: NCAA Tournament posts:
Teams 65 - 33, Teams 32 - 1, Recap: The First Four Days, Round 3 and 4 Preview, Recap: Rounds 3 and 4, Championship Game Thoughts: truthfully, on the whole, these posts were remarkably poorly received (two comments for the six posts combined), which suggests the whole thing was pretty self-indulgent. And you know what? I'm totally going to do it again this year. Also: notable for me including the following in my tournament preview about eventual national champion Kansas: I know, I know, you this team, John Q. Office Pool. You loved them last year (lost in the Elite Eight), and in 2006 (First Round), and in 2005 (First Round), but not as much as this year. No way. Go for it. I dare you. I dare you. I dare you. Ouch.

-May 15th:
On Revamping College Football: amazingly, this is the only time I've written about college football. I like this piece because I absolutely crush the BCS. Nine months, a full season, and another lackluster national championship between two one-loss teams (ratings were down 9% this year) later, it still holds up.

-May 28th:
The Best Lost Episodes of All-Time: also, if you watch Lost, Mark and I rank the best episodes:

-June 3rd: Running Diary of the Scripps-Howard National Spelling Bee:
Future Potential Employer in 2018: Kyle, why do all your running diaries involve small children?

Me: [horrified] I. Don't. Know.
-June 11th and June 14th: The Top 25 Video Games of the 1990s: Part one (#25-#13) and part two (#12-#1). Lots of comments between these two posts--18 in all--as nothing seems to get people more nostalgic than 8- and 16-bit gaming systems. Probably my two favorite post pics.

-June 17th:
Shuk and I Rank Tiger's Major Victories: ...happily, this post isn't obsolete, insofar as Tiger hasn't played in a major since we wrote it. Yay!

-June 19th and June 22nd:
Revisions to the AFI 10 Top 10's: part one and part two. In retrospect, maybe a bit hard to follow.

-June 27th: Euro 2008 Recap: because, really, when else will I talk about soccer on the blog? Notable for two of the three comments (one here, one on Facebook) strongly insinuating (not unjustifiably) that I'm a total idiot when it comes to the sport itself.

-July 6th:
Wimbledon Recap: suck it, Simmons. (And, for good measure, my U.S. Open recap from September.)

-July 25: On Mad Men: Admittedly, this one doesn't quite work, but I feel it does a pretty good job of expressing why I like the show (and why its success is so improbable).

-August 22nd:
Ranking the Olympic Events: Because, a mere six days after returning from our honeymoon, I clearly had too much time on my hands.

-August 27th:
Little League World Series running diary: You see?? You know, sometimes you get a real gem of a game (2007's extra-inning thriller), and sometimes you just get a fucking dud (this year's 12-3 fiasco). I enjoyed this entry (even though I'm vamping for all but the first thirty minutes), but prefer the '07 edition.

-August 28th:
Shuk and I discuss the Summer Olympics: Tragically, I selected Usain Bolt first overall in our "Which Summer Olympic Star Will Be Implicated in a Pot-Smoking Scandal in the Next Six Months" Fantasy Draft.

-September 23rd:
Shuk and I discuss the Emmys: Spark Notes version: we weren't fans of it.

-September 23rd*
: Best Books of the 1990s: ...which doubles nicely as a tribute to the late David Foster Wallace. Can't believe that was six months ago already.

* =
Wait, what the hell? I posted twice in one day? Impressive!

-October 9th through November 27th:
Ranking the U.S. Presidents (in ten parts):
part one, part two, part three, part four, part five, part six, part seven , part eight, part nine, part ten.

-October 28th: Annotated Superman paper from grad school: I'm tinkering with the idea of busting out some old history papers, too, and doing this again, but I'm not sure if I really want you guys to know precisely how little work I did for those three years.

November 1st: Shuk and Kyle Discuss the NFL at Midseason: Notable for me saying that Peyton Manning was out of the MVP running (he, of course, later won it), that the Bills and Packers would make the playoffs, that the Redskins would play in the Super Bowl (oops! But I was right about the Steelers making it), and Shuk and I piling on Joe Flacco, who proceeded to reel off a QB rating of 90 or higher in six of the next nine games (whatever, he stunk--50.8 rating in three games--in the playoffs). Good times!

-December 6th through December 23rd: The Best Albums of Our Lives: Shuk and I (Misha jumps in for the last part) pick the best album of every year of our lives (with playlists!): 1979-1989, 1990-1999, 2000-2004, 2005-2008.

-January 16th (2009):
Top 30 TV Shows of 2008: technically '09, but thematically tied to '08.

-February 4th (2009):
Top 25 Albums of 2008: same.

-February 21st (2009):
Top 30 Movies of 2008 (and Oscar Preview): same.

Alright, then, thanks for indulging.