Damn I spend too much time watching Movies 4 : Now we are certainly stretching credibility

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  • 1. Mr. Deeds -2001 2. There's Something About Mary -1998 3. Meet The Parents These three Movies were watched on a bus trip going and coming back from Buffalo New York to watch The New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills play against each other. They also showed the movie Superstar and Showtime. I did not watch these movies. Superstar because I always found Molly Shannon’s Mary Katherine Gallagher annoying on Saturday Night Live in small doses so long term exposure was not enticing. I also think Will Ferrell is one of the least funny people I have ever watched in anything. I hated Showtime when I first watched it. To watch it a second time would bring me to levels of masochism I do not care to explore. We also saw about half of the great movie Slap Shot.
    Mr. Deeds was actually much better than I could have ever expected. You either like Sandler movies or you don’t. I am feeling almost bold enough to consider him underrated or underappreciated. Having just seen the original Capra masterpiece, I must say it does a pretty good job of updating the concept and minimizing the preaching. I honestly think Gary Cooper might have been the miscast person in the two movies. Much to the credit of Cooper, he was a great enough actor to make this role his own. I don’t think Adam Sandler would have the ability to remake High Noon. Where this movie fails miserably in comparison is the leading lady. Winona maybe a convicted shoplifter but she certainly ain’t no Jean Arthur.
    There’s Something about Mary is still the Farrelly’s best movie. There are many things to love about this movie but I want to give some special props to Jonathan Richman and the reworking of the two man chorus from Cat Ballou fame. I loved the Stubby Kaye Nat King Cole performance in that movie and Richman and his drummer Tommy Larkin do an admirable updating.
    Meet The Parent’s did not fare as well on a second viewing. The comedy seemed a little too forced and there were almost as many cringe moments as there are laugh moments.
    I went on this bust trip with 11 people I know. I think we ranged in age from 35 to 50. As I stated on the bus, this was sure sign of our impending old age. For many we were on our first tour bus trip. It was a lot of fun; mainly because The Patriots destroyed the Drew Bledsoe led Buffalo Bills. If you have never been in a stadium where you are rooting against the home team and the home team is getting their butt kicked, you have missed out. By the 4th quarter, the stadium was pretty close to empty except this one section in one of the end zones where you could find a lot of very drunk and very happy Patriots fans.
  • 4. About A Boy -2002 In a strange way you have to give Hugh Grant some credit for his lack of pretensions and ambitions. With the notable exception of Extreme Measures, a passable action Movie he did with Gene Hackman, he does not wander from the genre of film that has made him famous and lots of money, romantic comedy. He does play varying roles in that genre. Sometimes he is the cad as he is the wonderful Bridget Jones Diary. Sometimes he is the common man touched by greatness as he is in the equally wonderful Notting Hill (by the way definitely Julia Roberts best movie, by far). And sometimes, he gets to play a new hook in the genre as he does in the wonderful About A Boy. This is a very well done movie with Grant just nailing this role of a man adrift in life who thinks he has everything by having to do basically nothing. That is until the boy from the title decides his own life is missing something. The undeniable conclusion is a lot of fun getting there. Somehow Grant’s fine performance will probably not even be recognized in the flurry of the upcoming award season. People will say it’s just another Hugh Grant role. I say if they are that easy to do, why can’t more people do them this well? Exactly.
  • 5. The Sum Of all Fears -2002 A pretty good movie. It is all buildup to a spectacular special effects scene that is rare in that it holds a true emotional response as well as the awe of the effect. The movie pretty much tails off from that scene. It ends up being a standard Hollywood action chase movie with all the normal implausibility and stupidity.
    Ben Affleck is pretty good as Jack Ryan, in some ways he is more appropriate for the role than Harrison Ford. This is far more like Alec Baldwin’s performance from The Hunt for Red October, still probably the best Jack Ryan movie. Of course the quality of that movie had a lot more to do with Sean Connery than Baldwin. This one is better for having Morgan Freeman in it too. I actually think Freeman might be the surest bet in Hollywood for giving your movie some instant credibility.
  • 6. Conspiracy -2001 One of the scariest movies I have seen in a very long time. I believe this was made for HBO but I saw it on DVD as it somehow ended up on my Netflix queue. I am not sure who or how it was recommended to me, but someone made a heck of a recommendation. This is the story of a two hour meeting held in a beautiful mansion in the German suburbs. In this meeting, the fate of Jews in Europe was determined. In 1942, when this story is told, Germany had already decided that Judaism needed to be eradicated and this meeting was just to determine the method and timetable.
    I have sat in on many business meetings over the years. People often go into these meetings with their own agenda and their own objectives and the drama is found in the people or person who has the strongest ability to get the meeting to be about those objectives and to discuss their agenda. This movie is all about that same drama that occurs every day in thousand’s of board rooms around the world. The fact that from this meeting the largest human tragedy of the last century will unfold is in some way irrelevant. Of course it can never be irrelevant to the viewer who knows the outcome and sits in awe and shock at the civility and bullying that will bring Adolf Eichman and Reinhard Heydrich’s agenda to reality. As played by Stanley Tucci and Kenneth Branagh, Eichman and Heydrich are the strongest voices heard in this room and as the other members of this meeting slowly learn of the plan they have outlined, the shock and disgust felt by some is soon overruled by the true power of evil, mob rule.
  • 7. 13 Ghosts It was a Saturday night the week before Halloween and we were heading out for the evening, as is my custom on Saturday night I look to see what first run movies the pay movie channels are playing. If I find something interesting, I end up recording it for a later viewing. Because of the impending All Hallows eve celebration, I suspected I might find a horror movie or two. I was correct. The choices came down to 13 Ghosts or the apt titled Snoop Dogg tour de force Bones. I remembered William Castle had made a movie called 13 Ghosts so I suspected this might be a remake. Castle made some fun movies that seemed very ripe for a reworking with modern Special FX.
  • 8. The Swimmer -1968 Wow! This is not the movie to watch when you are home, unemployed and questioning the direction your life is going. Any movie based on a John Cheever dissection of white suburbia is probably a bad choice but this one might be the ultimate bad choice. It is actually a very strong movie, with one of Burt Lancaster’s best performances. This story of Ned Merrill (Lancaster) is told in one afternoon as Merrill finds out he can swim to his house from across town via his affluent Westchester county neighbor’s pools. Each stop along his journey we find out more secrets about our Mr. Merrill until we end up at his house and all the ugliness and sadness is laid bare. Some of the effects of this movie like the very annoying soundtrack by uber-hack Marvin Hamlisch can be annoying and dated but the performance of Lancaster is so strong you can often overlook the triteness.
    Burt Lancaster who was 55 years old when this movie was made uses his amazing physique as much as anything to tell this unfolding story. At the beginning of the story, Lancaster has a body most 20 year olds could only dream of having. Long, lean and bronzed, he looks much like a mature Adonis in only his bathing suit. Slowly as he moves from pool to pool, very subtly the body and the face are allowed to show some of its age until finally at the end of the movie you would swear the man has shrunk three inches and aged 30 years. It is not done with make-up either. Through camera angles and the strength of Lancaster’s abilities you see an amazing transformation.
  • 9. Anatomy of a Murder -1959 A wonderful movie with one of the more complex performances Jimmy Stewart ever put on film. Stewart plays Paul Biegler a former district attorney who lost his last election and now occasionally practices private law between copious amounts of fishing and drinking. He is tracked down by Ben Gazzara and Lee Remick to get Gazzara off for the murder of a man who supposedly raped his wife played so against type by Remick. She is a flighty, flirty woman who is all curves, hairdo and winks. The unveiling of the truth in this courtroom melodrama is handled cleanly and subtly by wunderkind director Otto Preminger.
    The Stewart performance probably could have only come at this point in his career. Preminger and Stewart do a remarkable job of fiddling with the Stewart persona. We get a typical Stewart role, homespun, folksy and slightly disheveled, but instead of being always right and just we are allowed to see some of the cracks. We see touches of anger at the world, we see him drink too much and most importantly we see the lust in his eyes when he is in the presence of the flirtatious Remick. Much to this film’s credit we only see small glimpses of these cracks. Perhaps because of the already scandalous nature of this movie (well at least in 1959, movies were not often based on the location of a women’s panties), though more likely a planned choice of Preminger and Stewart, the slight fraying of Jimmy Stewart is one of the best reasons to see this wonderful movie.
    A final note, it also has one of the great soundtracks. Duke Ellington lays down the jazz that slowly propels this story forward. Much like great Jazz, this story seems to meander around in search of a destination. That is until you get to the end and you go wow that was a pretty good trip.
  • 10. A Foreign Affair -1948 A minor Billy Wilder piece from the archives of this great director. It does have some things worth recommending a viewing though. The movie was shot on location in Berlin in 1948. It is remarkable to see the devastation caused by the war. It is only more compelling when you remember Wilder was a German emigrate who tinges this film with a sadness that only a human can have when they go home to see what madness can unfurl. It is that sadness that somehow derails the movie however. Trying to shoot a Wilder romantic comedy in this supremely sad surroundings leaves it too disjointed to be effective.
    The story is a two girls for one guy story. The two female leads are the ever remarkable Jean Arthur and the infamous Marlene Dietrich. They both are in love with a US captain played by John Lund. If you have never heard of John Lund before you have succinctly found another major problem with this movie. Lund who’s only other real claim to fame is Grace Kelly’s nerdish intended in the Philadelphia Story musical remake High Society, is easily overshadowed by the two female leads. The few scenes that Dietrich and Arthur have together once again prove how wonderful a director and screenwriter Wilder was for his leading ladies. Ultimately it is these far too few scenes and the remarkable settings that make this movie even worth a watch.
  • 11. When We Were Kings -1997 I am not a big fan of documentaries. I would like to give you a reasonable explanation of why this is true but I don’t have one. Perhaps the controlled world of fiction holds more appeal than the messiness of real life. Perhaps I prefer an unhappy ending to be only made up. I really do not know but I rarely watch documentaries. I also do not like Boxing. I am an avid sports fan but the brutality of that particular sport has always left me cold. Considering I grew up in the city of Brockton Massachusetts which is known as the city of champions because Rocky Marciano and Marvin Hagler called it home, this is considered somewhat sacrilegious. So why watch this documentary of the famous George Foreman Muhammad Ali fight promoted by Don King in 1974? Well with most things in my life, the answer is rooted in my past.
    In the summer of 1974, I was 12 years old. In the fall I would turn 13 and I was sure my childhood would firmly be behind me. The impending peril of a new Junior High School mixed with the hormonal craziness that was taking over my body was as a powerful as any narcotic. I was terrified of where my life was going and I desperately wanted to stay a child for a little longer. My family had moved to Brockton from Dorchester in 1971 after my father had passed away. (Dorchester is a section of Boston that was undergoing serious social, cultural and political change. The predominately White Irish neighborhoods saw a mass exodus of its families to the suburbs.) So I had come to Brockton without a father or any friends. My family was obviously going through huge changes, and as the youngest of 4, I often was overlooked. I was left on my own to find a place I could call my own.
    Because life is so much easier when you are young because you really don’t know how cruel the world really can be, I easily hooked up with a group of kids in the neighborhood. I often think of those years between my arrival in Brockton and the craziness of adolescence as some of my best childhood memories. In those years we spent most free time playing some sport or more importantly arguing Sports. I often consider these arguments the germination of the voice that has been in my head ever since. Even back then, I was an opinionated SOB and we would argue constantly about the merits of such things as why The Red Sox should fire Eddie Kasko and The Celtics should be playing Steve Kuberski more. But probably the greatest arguments and occasionally even fisticuffs would be caused by extremely long drawn out battles about one Muhammad Ali. Two of the guys I hung out with were African Americans. Dave and Jesse were huge Ali backers. Me and another friend Kenny were of Irish American heritage and we thought Ali was everything that was wrong with America and as all children end up being, we were distillers of our parent’s fears.
    So this summer before the next big change in our life, we spent endless hours on the merits of the upcoming fight. Dave and Jesse were sure Ali would find some way to win. Kenny and I were sure Foreman was going to destroy Ali once and for all. I still vividly remember the three notches of anticipation and dread we were racheted when the fight was rescheduled for six weeks because Foreman got cut by one of his sparring partners. By delaying the fight, our own little war was permanently left unsettled. By the time that fight did happen, the four of us were well on our way to the terrors of a new school and those crazy thoughts that maybe those girls were not completely silly after all.
    So as I watched this pretty good documentary of what really happened across the world far from our little Brockton Massachusetts neighborhood, I could not help but think of my old friends and those crazy days where I learned to argue and I learned to understand I can not be right all the times.
  • 12. Atlantic City -1980 I first saw this movie when it was first released in 1980. I had recently graduated High School and I went to this movie with a couple of friends. We had been going to movies together for most of our high school years. This was the era of big budget special effects movies like Star Wars and gross out comedies like Animal House. We were huge fans of those movies as most teenage boys were supposed to be. Those movies were aimed straight at that mixture of testosterone, braggadocios and fear that makes up late stage adolescence. I just figured there was something more to be found on film than pure escapism. I was secretly watching as many old movies on TV as I could and I started to dabble in what we now consider Art House movies and foreign movies. I sort of hid this obsession from friends and family like it was an embarrassing secret that would certainly ostracize me from my peer group.
    I had once tried to include a group of friends into this world during high school. We went to see some big budget movie at the local Cineplex but when we got there the movie we wanted to see was sold out so we had to choose another movie. I vehemently argued to go see Woody Allen’s Love and Death. I argued it was a comedy and all the critics said it was very funny. After getting bopped on the head for even reading movie criticism never mind citing it as a reason to go see a movie, my friends reluctantly agreed to give it a try. Now Love and Death is not one of Woody’s funniest movies but it is very good. It is a send up of a mixture of Leo Tolstoy and Ingmar Bergman; a couple of subjects not high on our conversation list. My friends ragged me about that movie for at least 4 years. I never had the guts to tell them that I actually liked it.
    Atlantic City was the next movie that separated me from that particular group of friends. I was between High School and College and my buddies and I decided we should see a movie. This time they chose Atlantic City because they had heard it was good. I, of course, was thrilled as I had been reading everywhere what a great movie it was supposed to be. We went to it and I absolutely loved it. My friends hated it. They thought Susan Sarandon was hot but that the rest of it pretty much sucked. Some old guy gets to sleep with the hot girl and an old ugly broad too. I tried very hard to explain the beauty of the movie. I tried to explain that this story of hope and revitalization was being played out on various levels and that having an actor such as Burt Lancaster play the part was pure genius. They thought I was full of crap much like the movie. It was at this point I knew I had grown apart from my friends.
  • 13. The Horse’s Mouth -1958 “Why can’t I create what is in my head anymore?” laments Gully Jimson as he stares at the painting he has just finished. Jimson a one time great painter and even greater crackpot has in one sentence defined the frustration of any artist in crisis. No matter the method of expression, the inability to create the vision that lives inside all artists’ minds is the ultimate deciding factor between greatness and the not great. Jimson as played by Alec Guinness is a wonderful example of the self absorption and lunacy that only the truly creative can possess. In this riotously funny movie Guinness is working on all cylinders to give us a level of obsession that matches his Colonel Nicholson from The Bridge on The River Kwai while also being as funny as he is in his classic Ealing comedies like The Ladykillers or The Lavender Hill Mob.
    It is pretty sad that Alec Guinness will most likely be remembered for his role of Obi Wan Kenobi. There is such a breadth of greatness to be found in his career and this tour de force from the late 50’s is one of his better unknown treasures.
  • 14. Shangai Triad 1995 Yimou Zhang is a wonderful director who rightfully gets a lot of credit on this site because he has such a champion in our esteemed creator Jim. I have not seen a bad movie by this man yet and this one certainly did not break the streak. I like it when a director takes an old Hollywood movie genre and twists into something new. In this one the gangster movie is reinvented into a Chinese morality revenge play. Bijou, as played by the effervescent Li Gong, is the catalyst for the sinewy path this story follows. Her opening scene where she is decked out in full showgirl regalia and singing about how desirable she is just superb. It is one of the better character introductions I have seen in some time.
    This movie reminded me very much of The Coen Brother’s best movie Millers Crossing. Like all great gangster movies, the story slowly reveals itself in the constraints of a society that stands apart from the normal boundaries of morality. Laws are made by the society and these laws are the ones used to govern and control the inhabitants. Into this world is thrust ShuiSheng the boy who is going to serve as Bijou’s servant but also the viewers servant in that the story is revealed through his vision. He is the viewer and little is revealed about him but he is in just about every scene. Without revealing the ending of the movie be aware of the time ShuiSheng is not passive and what the ramifications of those actions are. In these revelations you get a strong understanding of the darkness that Yimou Zhang likes to play in. A wonderful movie.
  • 15. Spider-Man -2002 Ho Hum… I have no idea what all the fuss is about this movie. I was actually a little bored by the end. Now that is probably about the worst thing you could say about a movie of this type but I had had enough soon after the first Mary Jane rescue. And speaking of Mary Jane, who did the dye job on Kirsten Dunst’s hair? Were they intentionally trying for that damn it looks good in the local Bordello look? Also who decided that heroin chic looking crater faced Willem Dafoe would make a scary or effective super villain? I can not look at Dafoe without thinking please man just eat something already will you?
    Toby McGuire is a very good actor who has had some strong parts for a guy his age. I am hoping Spiderman does not ruin him. Michael Keaton was smart enough to know that too many Batman movies were not good for his career but it really has not helped him stop its steady decline. This movie is a text book example of why special effects can not be everything in a movie. If you have a movie with great special effects and a boring script, than you have a boring movie. This is the ultimate sin for any movie but especially an action flick.
  • 16. The Farmer’s Daughter -1947 Once you get past the nasally Swedish accent that Loretta Young uses and once you realize that yes indeed that is a very young James “Matt Dillon” Arness playing one of her brothers, you can relax and enjoy a fun little movie.
    I honestly think I would watch a movie where Joseph Cotton read the phone book. I bet he could have made it interesting. Cotton is one of the least heralded great actors from Hollywood’s golden era. You can often tell how good an actor is by the company he keeps or more specifically the directors he worked with. Cotton worked with a lot of the great ones including Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, George Cukor and Henry Hathaway. In the Farmer’s Daughter as in many of his movies he has the thankless task of playing opposite the lead and serving as foil or love interest. Cotton was so sure and steady that the viewer instinctually believed what he believed, so if he thought Loretta Young as a Swedish Maid was fascinating and she could become a congresswoman than the audience believed it too and fell in love with the character right along with Cotton.
  • 17. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown -1988 Based on his movies, Pedro Almodovar is one guy I don’t think I would want to spend a lot of time with in real life. However since Pedro seems to have lost my email address and I don’t have to worry about hurting his feelings by declining the invitation, I am happy that the man is as conflicted as his movies indicate. Often his movies border on self-parody and the kitschiness and colors seem on the verge of overwhelming the story. But when he is able to restrain his natural inclinations to melodrama and have his movies more rooted in humanistic emotions, his movies sing in a voice like no other making films today. Women is one of the good ones. Pedro takes an old Hollywood screwball comedy plot and twists into something original. Like all Almodovar movies its strongest characters are the women and in this movie we get a wonderful performance from Carmen Maura as Pepa whose nerves we should be worried about. I am still amazed they have not remade this movie in Hollywood yet. I am not advocating it but if they ever do they should hire Frances McDormand to play Pepa. Maybe The Coen Brothers should give it a try. I would actually like to see what they would do with it.
  • 18. Simple Men – 1992 When you watch as many movies as I do, you will occasionally find yourself with the strange feeling that you are stuck in a movie at various points in your life. I had that feeling a few months ago but I could not figure out what movie I was in. I then watched Hal Hartley’s Simple Men and it all came back to me and I realized I was in a Hal Hartley movie. If you have never seen a Hal Hartley movie, then try to think of them like a Spaghetti Western on Demerol. This is actually a good thing but it usually takes you twenty minutes of viewing before you have adjusted to the deliberate pacing and deadpan delivery. It is very easy to think the movies are being played for laughs but I actually think he is trying for something more. By both exaggerating and underplaying emotions and actions the viewer is transformed to a world where you are intentionally never comfortable or conventional.
    As I watched this movie, my trip to a local hospital a few months ago came rushing back to me and I remembered what type of movie I was visiting that day. I was on my way to probably the largest hospital in Massachusetts but for purposes of anonymity I will not divulge its name. Its initials are MGH though if you really care about such things. I was scheduled to visit the hospital this day for an ummm…let us say a delicate delivery. I was going to leave a semen specimen.
    I actually have had to do this in the past at another hospital but thankfully I was able to take care of my business at home and bring the specimen with me for analysis. The only real difficulty with this method is you have to make sure the boys don’t get cold on the way to the hospital. You end up driving with one hand on the wheel and another hand clutching a specimen bottle to your body for warmth.
    At this time, I actually had a job to go to so I had to make the appointment around my work schedule. I booked the 8:00 am time for my delivery. I woke up that morning with a sense of dread and fear that I have not had in some time. My wife and I had an interesting breakfast together where she so innocently and caringly grilled me on what I was going to do at the hospital. I actually think I uttered these words or something pretty close to it. “Honey, I am going to do this but I am not going to enjoy it.” Just what I needed, a little guilt to make my morning a true religious experience. For a lapsed catholic like me, some guilt actually seemed right at home for what I was going to be undertaking this morning.
    I arrived at the hospital 15 minutes early ready to do my duty. I actually got there early just in case they were able to get me in there sooner. As a recent 40 year old, you take all the time you can when it comes to these matters. Actually it was good that I got there early as I soon realized I had no idea where I was supposed to go in the hospital for this delivery. I headed to the hospital directory and of course the first word I look for on the board was sperm. I don’t know if I actually believed that I was going to see an entry for sperm specimens in room 3F or not but it was of course not there. I knew like all things medical it had some strange name and that I had no idea what is was. I knew I was going to have to break the male code and ask someone for directions. I was going to have to ask someone; where do I go to masturbate in a giant hospital complex? It was at this point I knew I had entered an alternate universe.
    I scanned the people manning the information booth this morning. There were 3 of them; a young Latino who looked like he spent every moment of his free time in the gym, a women in her forties who looked like my old High School librarian and a portly guy who looked like he was in his 50’s. Which one to choose? I of course chose the 50 year old guy figuring he was my best shot for a kindred spirit. Of course soon after breaking out in the biggest smirk possible he informed me he did not know as he was only a temp. He so nicely asked Muriel the librarian who gave me that look that told me “Jim you will be going to hell for what you are about to do” and then told me where I should go.
    When I got to my destination there was an extremely attractive blond manning the registration desk. It was at this point, I knew I was not in Kansas anymore and the Gods had decided to have a little fun with me today. She so innocently and sweetly took down my information and told me to have a seat and that a nurse would be with me soon to help. A nurse was going to help? Isn’t that some form of prostitution? Was my health insurance going to cover this? I guess it would be okay in the name of science but I don’t think my wife was going to understand. As I sat there trying to figure out how I was going to explain it to my wife “honest honey, they forced me to work with that buxom nurse, I didn’t enjoy it”, a 50 year old Asian nurse, no taller than my six year old nephew, comes and calls my name. She did not speak English very well. And as I furiously followed her down this very long corridor while trying to understand what she was telling me, I once again noticed how everything around me had slowed down to a crawl while I seemed to be trying out for Olympic 100 meter dash team. She was jabbering on about a yellow line and that I would have to follow it when I was done and bring the specimen to this location and when I got there I was to leave it in this box and ring a bell like you find in all those old movies at the hotel desk. I think I got what she was telling me, like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of OZ, I was supposed to follow the Yellow Brick Road to see the wizard and the kindly old wizard was going to give me the courage to complete my task, or at least I hoped that was what going to happen.
    Instead the Asian nurse hands me a brown paper bag and leads me further down the yellow line past what seems likes hundreds of hospital employees to a room that at one time was surely a closet. She leads me into the room and quickly closes the door behind me. Now thoroughly confused, I gingerly look in the brown paper bag not sure what to expect but hoping it was some pill that would let me wake up from this very strange dream. It was a specimen jar with my name scribbled on the side. I figured out what I was supposed to do.
    I looked around the room and just started laughing. The room looked like a miniature recreation of what a woman would think Warren Beatty’s apartment would have looked like in his swinging prime. One wall was almost a complete mirror. There was a small green leather couch that I think they got from Richard the horny neighbor on the old Three’s Company show. There was a small TV mounted on the wall with a wired remote attached to a VCR. Next to the VCR was your usual assortment of pornography. Included in the various titles was a “Home Decorating with Emil” tape. I don’t know how this tape got there but on reflection I figure it was either a nurse using the room or it was some weird homosexual aphrodisiac that I knew nothing about. If I had more time, I think I would have checked it out to see if there was something I was missing. Also there was a large assortment of magazines for your pleasure. These included your standards like Playboy and Penthouse but also had some specialty fare like Jugs and Making Latex Work for You. It also included soft porn choices like Maxim, FHM and The obligatory Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue for the more prudish among us. There was also an issue of Esquire that I still can not figure out. The only other thing of note in this room was a towel dispenser filled with standard White hand towels. I guess they hoped this room was going to be a self cleaning room. Of course the goal is not to spill anything but I guess you can not be too careful.
    I will leave out some of the more unpleasant details of my experience but let me tell you pornography doesn’t really need sound to be effective. (I had to turn down the sound because it was just too embarrassing to have the sound up with the hordes I knew where lingering outside the door taking bets on what movie I chose to complete my mission). I put my completed task back into the brown paper bag and followed the yellow line to the box, rang the bell and got the hell out of that that place as soon as possible. I actually made it to work on time. Somehow I was really proud of that accomplishment.
  • 19. Kiss Me Stupid -1964 Certainly this movie is not in the upper echelon of Billy Wilder films but it has some wonderful performances by Dean Martin and Kim Novak that make it worth a viewing; especially Novak in the clichéd prostitute with a heart of gold role. Ray Walston, my favorite Martian, got the lead in this movie only because Peter Sellers had a heart attack. Sellers probably could have brought this movie to loftier heights than the pedestrian Walston was able but we will never know.
    I have a quick historical observations based on viewing this movie. Kim Novak as she looked in this movie would be considered fat by today’s standards. Maybe they should make the Kim Novak story and call it “Real Hollywood Sex Kittens have Curves” I know if I were a woman, I would really want to find Twiggy and slap that girl silly. At least back in the 50’s if you were using your body to make a living, you could at least eat a hamburger every once in a while. Of course on the downside you did have to probably wear a girdle. No matter the era; you give a little, you get a little.
  • 20. Mr. Sardonicus -1961 William Castle was the cut rate Alfred Hitchcock. Like Hitchcock, Castle knew that self promotion was going to increase his box office and unlike Hitchcock he really did not have that bothersome quality of good taste to stop his ambitions. Of course he never had Hitch’s budgets, actors or scripts either. It still did not stop him from making some very effective Saturday matinee movies in the 50’s and 60’s.
    Mr. Sardonicus is often considered his best. Sardonicus is an effective, creepy little tale about greed. It has two wonderful performances by Guy Rolfe as Baron Sardonicus and Oscar Homolka as Krull his manservant.
    Castle is the real life basis for the fictional retelling in John Goodman’s Matinee. That too is a pretty effective fun movie. Castle often used gimmicks to try to make his movies an interactive experience. In this one he introduced the Punishment Poll where the audience was supposedly allowed to vote on the fate of the poor Baron. Of course, Castle really only filmed one ending but it still was an effective part of the movie. I don’t know why, in this age of technology and special effects, some young filmmaker has not adopted some of Castle’s gimmicks to make a name for himself. Self promotion and cheap frights never really go out of style.
  • 21. To Catch a Thief – 1955 This is one of Hitchcock’s most stylized movies. It has Cary Grant, Grace Kelly and the French Riviera plus a slight little tale of burglary and murder. Well worth a viewing.
    In life there are dog people and there are cat people. Some will tell you they are both but they are lying. I am very much a dog person. There are very few people in the world I would rather spend time with than my dog (my wife will tell you this is because besides me, the dog is the only one who thinks I am right all the time). He is often my companion in my movie viewing experience. Much to my wife’s chagrin, he often lies down on our relatively new couch and gets his butt scratched as we wander in and out of the worlds that movies create for us. I can think of no finer companion.
    You are either a dog person or a cat person but that does not mean you can not like, love or admire the opposite. Cary Grant in this movie plays a cat burglar known as John “The Cat” Robie and there is no one who better exemplifies a cat person than Cary Grant. A peculiar mixture of high maintenance and self sufficiency combined with a regal appearance gave the ultra handsome Grant that certain feline quality that make cats and cat people so treasured in our society.
    When my wife and I have a child and if it turns out to be a daughter, I already have my advice ready for the inevitable question about choosing a mate. “By all means, play with cats but whatever you do honey, settle down with a dog”.
  • 22. On The Town -1949 There is a moment in this movie, where Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin are more than halfway through a complex dance sequence that the camera zooms in on Kelly’s face. It is a face of serene calm and happiness. It is a face of a man confident enough to enjoy his art and his work that he makes it look so effortless. The Camera pulls out and we get a look at the faces of Sinatra and Munshin who are doggedly trying to keep up with Kelly’s lead. These two men look like they want to be anywhere other than there. Then Kelly gives them a look that says “come on boys, follow me home. We are going to be OK”. That my friends is the definition of supreme talent. That my friends is the definition of a star.
    Gene Kelly is easily one of my favorite people ever to grace a movie screen. I recently watched a TV special called Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer where his art was dissected and discussed. As opposed to most current rehashing and trashing of Hollywood legends that you find on TV these days, this did a wonderful job of being fair and still respecting an enormous talent. In this documentary they go to great lengths to portray Kelly as a drill sergeant perfectionist but they also portray him as a generous director and co-worker who would do anything and everything to get the scene better. It was nice to have this all confirmed for me by his friends and co-workers but I already knew it by that one scene in this one movie. I think Frank and Jules knew it too.
  • 23. Libeled Lady -1936 This seems as good a place as anywhere to discuss old movies and why I love them. After all, this is an old movie. It is another teaming of Myrna Loy and William Powell, who would be more successful in one of best movie series ever to come out of Hollywood playing Nick and Nora Charles in the Thin Man movies. They are not Nick and Nora in this one. Well at least they are not named those characters but one could easily see this as prequel to The Thin Man movies; sort of how Nick and Nora first met. If you like The Thin Man movies than I can assure you will like this movie. Libeled Lady is a prime example of the old movies that almost always work for me. I fear they do not work well enough for a generation that considers Jaws an old classic and movies that Preston Sturges and Frank Capra made irrelevant.
    People who are part of my non Internet life often ask me for a movie recommendation. You watch as many movies as I do and are an opinionated SOB like me and it is a natural fit. I do not like to do it because people’s tastes are so different and I believe the mood of the viewer has a lot to do with his or her enjoyment of a particular movie. The one thing I almost never do is recommend a movie made before the 1970’s to anyone. I used to but when you hear “I hate old movies” one time too often and even an old dog like me can figure out that message.
    The following opinion is about as a broad generalization that I will ever venture on this list but I have thought about it for many years and feel comfortable in the categorization. If you like old movies you will like the theater. Now everyone who does like old movies may not admit or even know they like the theater but I stand by the assertion that it would be true if the theater were given a chance. Which brings me to my second generalization, Movies made before say 1955 are about the script. Movies made after 1955 are about many things sometimes the least of which is the script. It could be the director’s “vision”. It could be the star power of the actors or more likely it is about the technology and visual innovations. It took the Film community the 25 years between 1930 and 1955 to move beyond the marvel of putting spoken word with pictures. This inertia makes it the golden era of dialogue. Often stagy and unrealistic but never dull, these scripts have fueled some of my favorite movie moments. Much like I learned a stage play is not for everyone, I have learned these old movies are not everyone’s cup of tea either.
    Of course, like Nora Desmond said in Sunset Boulevard “We didn't need dialogue. We had faces!” I can see a weathered fading Arnold spewing “We didn’t need no F%&#ing dialogue, we just blew up shit”
  • 24. Monsoon Wedding -2001 Sometimes the pure joy of making a film shines through in the result. Sometimes looking at a universal event (like a wedding) through a whole new set of eyes overcomes the conventional nature of a script. Luckily the makers of Monsoon Wedding knew these facts and the result is a wonderful movie that despite its many flaws is a well worth a viewing.
  • 25. Throne of Blood -1957 If you ever want some proof that William Shakespeare was the ultimate misogynist, just read a little Macbeth. I tend to think that is too simplistic a role for old Will but in Lady Macbeth you get one of the greatest reasons ever to believe the only thing man should fear is an ambitious woman.
    And if you are like much of western civilization who think William Shakespeare is overrated and hard to read just rent this movie. This is Kurosawa’s retelling of Macbeth. The performance of Toshiro Mifune rightfully gets much of the credit for this masterpiece but I will take the amazing work of Isuzu Yamada as Asaji the Lady Macbeth of this retelling as the best performance. A wonderful performance that only helps fuel my own sneaking suspicions of who really rules the world we live in.
  • 26. In The Company of Men -1997 This is the greatest horror movie of the last 10 years. It is so good and harrowing because the horror comes from a strong basis in reality. This is the story of two men who hate women so much that they decide because they were dumped by their respective girlfriends they are going to pursue a deaf shy girl and then dump her for sport. Aaron Eckhart definitely deserved the Academy Award and it was one of the best jobs of acting I have seen in a long time.
    I was going to write how Ronald Regan developed a group of male followers who believed it was their right to rule the world and take whatever they wanted and the two men here are an excellent example. But even this known Reagan hater can not deny this was a phenomenon well established long before the advent of disgust that was the bootlicking Reaganomics yuppies.
    If I was a woman, a presumptuous if not absurd thought, and I watched this movie I would almost have to dismiss this movie as an example of male behavior extremism. It would be impossible to believe that the gender I am supposed to spend the rest of my life with could develop such levels of cruelty. I would not be able to compute that my software selling boyfriend or husband’s brain could actually work in this manner. Of course I am not a woman and as a male I firmly know that people like the lead character in this movie exist. They are selling software and managing your money. They are lawyers and doctors. They are everywhere. They think all of life is a competition and you do anything and everything to win. They think kindness is for pussies and they think emotions are something you fake while manipulating yourself into getting whatever you want. They unfortunately are ruling this country. Damn you Ronald Reagan (I know I said I was not going to blame him but damn him anyway.)
  • 27. The Importance of Being Earnest -2002 A nice adaptation but it lacked something to make it the definitive presentation of this classic Wilde play. Rupert Everett and Reese Witherspoon seemed a little too restrained and Colin Firth a little too over wrought. Of course it does have Judi Dench playing Lady Bracknell and the movie is worth seeing for this performance alone. The classic line from this movie is uttered by Lady Bracknell “Losing one parent may be regarded as a misfortune… losing two looks like carelessness” For very personal reasons, I have always thought that one of the funnier lines in the English language.
  • 28. The Sunshine State -2002 I think I am going to start an LBangs Hal Hartley relationship with John Sayles. The Man is that good. His films are that great. “Please, everybody, try at least one of Sayles films! I'm begging here!” Ok I may not be that much of a zealot but I think I have seen every John Sayles movies and there is not one I would not recommend. Some Like Lonestar, Limbo and Eight Men Out I would recommend more than others but they are all worth a watching.
    Sunshine State is pretty close to that pantheon too. I honestly think you could put Sayles in any neighborhood in this country and he could find you the greatest story in that neighborhood and also film it beautifully. I would watch it too and so should you . He is that good.
  • 29. To Kill a Mockingbird -1962 Lets get the movie out of the way first. It is great and if you have not seen it yet, what the hell is wrong with you? Gregory Peck’s best performance and though the movie has some flaws it still is one of the greatest movies ever made.
    But what is fascinating about the story of To Kill a Mockingbird is the author Harper Lee. Mockingbird is Lee’s only published book and since I think any publishing firm in America would pay handsomely for Lee’s grocery lists it might be the only one she ever will write. Now that is a one hit wonder. You write a book that is probably still taught in most high school’s in this country and they make one of the best movies of all time from that book and then you stop. After doing a little research, it appears she has never given an explanation why this is her only novel. I say good for you. Mockingbird is a great enough gift that you owe no one an explanation or even another book. Always leave them wanting more is a cliche because like most cliches they are true.
  • 30. Raiders of The Lost Ark -1981 A few minutes into this movie when the audience has just been allowed to take a breath from the breakneck opening scene the camera pans to a silhouette of a man in a fedora. This is our introduction to Indiana Jones, one of the movies greatest creations. The audience is only allowed a second for reflection before Indy takes us along on a sequence that would make James Bond envious. (Side note for lovers of games like Super Mario Brothers the whole concept started with this movie. It is easy to think that Spielberg ripped off the jumps and hidden codes from the gaming industry. It was actually the other way around.)
    No matter how long Steven Spielberg makes movies, he is not going to make a better movie than this one. Much to his credit, he still makes great movies occasionally but this will be his greatest movie. If you have not seen it in some time, I suggest another viewing and then try to disagree with me.
  • 31. Thirteen Conversations about One Thing -2001 Loved it. One of the best movies of last year.
  • 32. Character -1997 Truly wonderful Dutch movie.
  • 33. Cure The Japanese answer to Seven. Creepy thriller. Well worth a viewing
  • 34. The Crimson Rivers -2000 One of the more american foreign movies I have seen in some time. Which means it is a little silly but the scenery and the characters make it worth a viewing
  • 35. Under Suspicion -1992 Standard modern noir only really remarkable for the golden orbs of Laura San Giacamo.
  • 36. King of New York -1990 About as good as you could hope for in an Abel Ferrara and Christopher Walken movie. Not horrible. Not worth seeking out either.
  • 37. 12 Angry Men -1957 A wonderful movie and if I am ever on trial for murder the movie I want my Jury to watch the night before the deliberation. i actually have never figured out how anyone actually gets convicted in this country.
  • 38. Sleepy Time Gal -2001 Another wonderful movie that deserves more credit than it is getting. Worth seeking out and if adoption has ever crossed the path of your life this is a must see movie.
  • 39. On The Beach -1959 Its the end of the world and Gregory Peck feels fine. Well not really but he does get Ava Gardner as a going away present. There are a lot of worse ways to leave this mortal coil.
  • 40. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg 1964 That Deneuve lady wasn't bad to look at. She was kind of pretty. A wonderful movie.
  • 41. Rashomon -1950 When cynicism becomes reality, is it still a negative quality? Kurosawa, a truly cynical man, with the making of Rashomon reverses that question and asks if nothing can truly be realistic how can we not be cynics? I have watched a lot of Kurosawa films recently which means I have watched a lot of great movies but none are the equal of this masterpiece. Still my favorite foreign movie.
  • 42. Far From Heaven -2002 A good but not great movie. I tend to think of Julianne Moore as one of the more overrated acting phenomenons of recent times and this movie has done nothing to change my opinion. I did like a lot of the other performances, especially Dennis Quaid and Patricia Clarkson. It is also a visually stunning movie and the use of color and shading while somewhat obvious is none the less effective.
  • 43. Elling -2001 A remarkable fable masquerading as a full fledged movie. This movie is well worth seeking out. Do not be scared away by the Norwegian setting or speech. You are easily drawn into the manic world of Elling and his lumbering friend and roommate Kjell Bjarne.
    If you are in need of a movie to uplift your spirits, this is the one. If you are in need of a movie to counter attack all the negativity that is prevalent in the world of depressed economies and Presidents obsessed with a war that his father could not finish, this is the one. If you need a movie that disproves the growing reality that as the world becomes a smaller place through technology, the fringes of this world are displaced and forgotten, may I suggest a viewing of this movie that may not disprove that theory but at least lets you know some people somewhere actually are still trying to do the right thing.
  • 44. Kind Hearts and Coronets -1949 For any true anglophile who has not seen this movie, shame on you. A wonderful sly dark (very dark) comedy from the renowned Ealing Studios. I still think Peter Sellers owes much of his career to Alec Guinness’ performance(s) in this movie. Guinness plays eight different characters and with the slightest of makeup tweaking each performance is so different and unique you would not be shocked to find eight different actors played the parts.
    I hesitated when I called this a comedy as it definitely borders the tragic and farcical lines that make true greatness. I don’t think I laughed out loud once during this movie but at the end I was totally amused. I think if you give it a try you will be too.
  • 45. K 19: The Widowmaker -2002 This was better than I expected but then I am a sucker for a good sub movie. Harrison Ford was good even though his Russian accent disappears as often as a one night stand does the next morning. As a child of the cold war in all its glory, I was thrilled to see Russians portrayed as something more than drunken louts and evil conquerors whose only goal was world domination . Hollywood has taken it slowly on the Russians are not evil theme. It is hard for them to give up the easy villains Russia provided.
    I really do think I watch too many movies and that a lot of my suppositions about things and places are based on the skewered point of view that movies provide but when it comes to Russia I am not buying it anymore. That is because I am going to get something a heck of a lot more important from Russia, hopefully this summer. My Wife and I are in the final stages of completing paperwork that will allow us to travel to Russia and adopt a child.
    Life is a very funny thing. No matter how much you plan, organize or wish for your life to follow a certain path, it is likely you are heading in directions that you have no idea are possible.
    I grew up hating everything that was Russian (well there was that brief period where Vodka was my drink of choice), I hated Brezhnev, I hated Olga Korbut, and I even hated those stupid fur hats they would always wear. This is what I was raised to believe. This is what I was supposed to believe. Russia was the country that wanted all Americans dead and that the only way communism could thrive was if all capitalist pigs were eliminated. Russia was the country that would like nothing better than to nuke America into oblivion and the only reasons they were not doing it were because our brilliant American scientists were creating a better bomb than those inferior Russian scientists and our brave American defense department was spending more money through the wonders of capitalism.
    Of course now I know there are brilliant and stupid people in every profession and in every country and that capitalism works better than communism because by nature humans are competitive and the wallet, unfortunately, is probably the biggest barometer for who wins. I also know that through someone else’s suffering my wife and I will have a dream fulfilled of a child to love and nurture. The fact that the person whose pain will be our gain comes from the country of my childhood fears and hatred is just one of life’s curves that you just never see coming. All curves don’t have to be bad.
  • 46. 100 Girls -2000 To use a cliché, man is truly a hunter when it comes to the opposite sex. I honestly think the male of the species has not evolved much from his caveman past. I think somewhere in every male you will find the remnants of that ancestor that would grab its sexual conquest like it was grabbing a fruit off a tree. Man had an urge, man found something to sate that urge. The more variety possible the better. What has evolved tremendously from those days is the fairer sex. Women have very rightfully evolved into a force of nature that scares and enthralls most of the male gender.
    I said earlier men have not evolved much but one way, and this is directly related to the evolution of the female, is the methods used to completing the conquest these days. One of the best methods ever created is depicted to great effect in this movie. It is the “I understand the greatness of women and I respect you tremendously while I boink you and your girlfriends. I am not worthy but lets have a little fun along the way” method.
    The key to making this method successful is believing your own bullshit first before trying it out on a group of women. It is this level of commitment to delusions that make this a rarely tried and even rarer successful course of action. But he who masters it, like his caveman predecessors, will have conquests and variety aplenty. Whoever wrote this movie was either a successful practitioner or more likely a frustrated failed wannabee.
    Of course even this demeaning generalization of a whole species is probably more than this movie deserves but as I watched this predictable teenage sex comedy, I could not help but think of an old college friend who had 15 girls he was having sex with at the same time. They all thought he was the only one who understood them. Of course this method does take a lot of motivation, time and commitment. This might be why my friend flunked out of that college. It is too bad they were not grading him on his true course of studies. He surely would have aced that course.
  • 47. Royal Wedding -1951 Fred Astaire dances on the ceiling, Jane Powell unleashes her powerful voice and Peter Lawford helps to explain some of his charms that helped nail him a Presidents sister. Seems like good reasons to see a movie if you ask me.
  • 48. The Divine Secrets of The Ya Ya Sisterhood. – 2002 To paraphrase the great Ringo Starr, “No, no, no I cant take it no more”. I am still waiting for the great protest from white females of the south about the way they are portrayed by Hollywood. Even Ellen Burstyn and James Garner couldn’t save this one for me.
  • 49. Alphaville -1965 A bizarre movie. It is kind of like Blade Runner meets William Burroughs and they both go to see 2001: A Space Odyssey together. More likely people were taking some serious drugs in those wacky 60’s and this is the result. I can not really recommend it but if my description piques your interest a little you might want to give it a try.
  • 50. Penny Serenade –1941 I am kind of surprised this movie has never been remade. It seems ripe for a “You’ve Got Mail” type reworking. Perhaps Tom Cruise could enter the romantic dramedy field with someone like Halle Berry in the wife role. They could get Cameron Crowe to direct and Judi Dench to play the matronly good-hearted head of the adoption agency. Now if I could just find out where to send these movies ideas, I could be making some real money.
    Oh by the way this is a very good Cary Grant Irene Dunne movie that teeters along the sentimental cliffs without ever plunging off.
  • 51. Last Night –1998 It’s the end of the world and Sandra Oh is once again proving that she is one of the great unknown and unheralded actresses working these days.
    The thing that amazes me about these end of the world movies is how civilized everyone acts. I wonder if and when the actual end comes will humanity really act this nicely to each other. The pessimist in me would have some big pretty fears. I do know there would be people like the character of Craig who scribbles on his kitchen wall every sexual peccadillo he would like to indulge before the end and then dutifully crosses them off as he completes the task. Sort of the ultimate kinky 40 by 40 list.
  • 52. Happy Accident –2000 Vincent D’onofrio is one of the best actors to sign up if you are looking to make a quirky romantic movie. Movies like Mystic Pizza, The Whole Wide World and this one shows a side of D’onofrio that often gets overlooked in his more serious roles. I actually think his performance in The Whole Wide World is the best work he has ever done (and there is some serious competition for that title) and one of the better acting performances of the 90’s.
    This is an enjoyable movie and I would like to see Tomei and D’onofrio team up again some time.
  • 53. Not Another Teen Movie-2001 “Striker, listen, and you listen close: flying a plane is no different than riding a bicycle, just a lot harder to put baseball cards in the spokes”.
    “Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!”
    “There's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you'll enjoy the rest of your flight. By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”
    “The hell I don't!! LISTEN KID! I've been hearing that crap ever since I was at UCLA. I'm out there busting my buns every night. Tell your old man to drag Walton and Lanier up and down the court for 48 minutes.” And finally “Joey, you ever see a grown man naked?”
    These quotes from the great movie Airplane are filling the space that I would normally tell you how bad a movie this was. Now back to your normal programming.
  • 54. Gangs Of New York –2002 Part of me hopes Martin Scorsese does not win the Oscar for this movie. He has made so many better movies that it would definitely stink of a pity award. Of course the major thing worth recommending in this movie is the direction so it will not be awful if he does get his expected award.
    Now if the screenplay garners any awards, then you know The Oscars have reached the point of complete irrelevance. The script is the 2-ton anchor that drags this movie down to the murky mess of mediocrity. No matter how vibrant and alive Scorsese makes it look, no matter how well Daniel Day Lewis, Liam Neeson, John C. Reilly and Jim Broadbent perform this movie is a mess. Plus Leo and Cameron sucked.
  • 55. Unfaithful –2002 I almost always like Diane Lane. I almost always hate Richard Gere. But I will be damned if I know why everyone lauds Lane’s performance but neglects Gere’s. I am at a complete loss to understand the praise heaped on Lane. She spends at least half the movie crying and she spends the other half overacting to show the torment she is going through. The movies not bad because it handles a standard Hollywood plot with a few curveballs but someone please tell me why she got nominated for this performance. Please anyone?
  • 56. Pumpkin –2002 This one hooked me, so I followed it along to its unbelievable but inevitable conclusion. If someone bet me three years ago that Christina Ricci would be cast as a vacuous pretty cheerleader/Sorority girl, I would have taken that bet and spent the money before the day was through. I understand part of the casting was meant to be ironic but our girl Christina has gone through some transformation that makes it at least plausible. Of course that forehead of hers is hard to hide. Every time I see that forehead I can not believe how much little Wendy Adams has grown up and how that forehead kept growing too.
  • 57. Bloodwork –2002 This is a bad predictable movie. I kept watching it thinking there was going to be some twist or plot development that would send it off on a better path. It never comes. Literally 5 minutes into this movie, you know how the rest of the movie is going to unfurl. The bad guy is obvious, the people who die are obvious and Clint Eastwood was even obvious. This is true for both movies and especially TV shows but why do they cast the surprise bad guy with a known actor? You know theses actors are not going to take the supposedly minor roles so inevitably you know that character is going to be more important somewhere along the way. I would say 95% of the time they end up being the bad guy. I am going to dub this the Tim Matheson rule because he is always getting these parts on TV.
  • 58. Scotland PA –2001 A cool concept, lets take Shakespeare’s MacBeth and update it to a 1970’s burger joint in Pennsylvania. The actual execution of this concept was a little lacking but it was intriguing enough. Now that maybe only true because I am pretty familiar with MacBeth and I spent most of the time trying to figure out how true they were going to be the play. It is actually a pretty strong redo. It is a good thing that the director is married to Maura Tierney because she is the best thing in the movie. I am not sure I know of a bad performance by her.
  • 59. Barbershop –2002 An entertaining movie. The supposed controversy about African American people saying disparaging remarks about African American icons was media created silliness that just helped promote the movie. If I was feeling particularly cynical this morning I might even suggest the controversy was created just for that purpose but I am feeling charitable so I will leave it that it was a welcome result for a movie that deserved some good publicity.
  • 60. Lord Of The Rings: Two Towers –2002 A more accessible movie than its predecessor. I am not sure this makes it a better movie but it does follow more conventional moviemaking formula and the viewer is more familiar with the majority of the characters. Of course this is more an action movie than the first one and I think they manipulated an action movie from a source that is so much more. But overall, a nice second act that should lead to a spectacular finish.
    I wonder if they will try this course (3 movies shot at the same time but released at different times) of action again in movie making. There certainly are other literary series that could use it.
Author Comments: 

For the last list, the third in my series, I questioned the effectiveness of the list. So what do I do? I get chatty. My First two lists had over 100 movies before my space allotment was reached. For the 3rd one, I only got through 57 movies before the gods of good taste said shut up already will you. Actaully it was somewhat a planned course of action with that list and most likely this one too. I am experimenting with diifering styles and structure to these write-ups trying to find something that works well for me and the reader. Please fell free to comment on any writeups that work well for you or does not work well for you. I am avidly seeking feedback.

As to trying to find a fourth movie in a series that was any good, I might be in some serious trouble. Nothing comes to mind. Maybe I should be like the encyclopedia, I always thought D was a pretty good letter.

Ok, here is my goal with this series of lists which will grow as we go. It will be very similiar to many others on Listology who rate all movies they have recently watched. Since I never feel comfortable givng things rating, I am just going to try to give random thoughts and critiques.

I really do watch too many movies but insomnia is a huge benefit as it gives me the hours between 12 and 2 am to get in a movie a night.

As always please feel free to comment, condemn or console as you feel appropriate.

Simple Men, eh? Admit it, you just love to tease me like this, right?

I'm thrilled you also enjoyed About a Boy, easily one of the better 2002 films I seen so far. Oh, and I also like Notting Hill...

Keep up the great lists!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I had a sneaking suspicion this might illicit some type of response. Actually to tease you even more, I have an amusing surreal ancedote to write about for that movie. I remeber going through this experience and thinking I was stuck in a Hal Hartley film. It came back to me while viewing Simple Men. Overall it is a strong movie, that sort of gets stuck in your head.

Sounds terrific. I'll be waiting...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Excellent. This list has only just started and I've already picked up three movies for my "to see" list: About a Boy, Conspiracy, and The Swimmer. As you know I have a weakness for Zhang Yimou so I'm really looking forward to your Shanghai Triad review (although of all his movies that I've seen, I think it's the least strong). And I imagine LBangs is looking forward to your Simple Men review. Has there been a fourth sequel that has been the strongest of the lot? I dunno, but you're off to an awfully good start.

When I was younger, I used to favor Star Trek IV to the others in the series. That's been a while, and not having seen any of the original cast Star Treks in years, I'm not sure I'd stand by that comment with any certainty!

Anyway, these sequels are always worth catching!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ah yes, Star Trek IV; I forgot about that one. I always thought it was a toss up between that one and Wrath of Khan for best-of-series.

As I suspected Simple Men might provoke a response from LBanfgs, I thought Shangai Triad might do the same for you. I think I may have liked it more than you Jim. I thought it was a very strong movie that reminded me in some ways of Miller Crossings. And you know, I love that movie.

The Swimmer was from 1968 but you're correct that Burt Lancaster was 55 at the time.

Thanks for the correction. Are you a fan of the movie?

Unfortunately, I haven't seen it, But I think saw the trailer once. Doesn't Burt Lancaster sort of wander into people's yards and then swim across their pool and then movie into the yard next door and do the same thing?

Well in a purely literal sense yes that is what happens but a lot more is happening underneath. In some ways it seems a little dated but it is a remarkable performance by Lancaster that s often overlooked when talking about his career.

I just went back and read a little bit of Damn 1 to confirm a suspicion of mine: I loved that list but I'm definitely enjoying this series more as it matures. I really like the way you blend personal observations and stories with more "objective" criticism. And I like the way you like Zhang Yimou. :-) Heck, I even like that you don't review all the movies up front so I can look at the "coming attractions" with anticipation. I've been complimenting this series for months, so it's probably time I stopped gushing. Hopefully next time I write I'll have something substantive to say about one of your reviews rather than just expressing my general enjoyment.

I actually sent the link to these lists to the best man at my weddiing and he made the same observation that the diversity was nice but it seemed liked the lists were getting better.

I guess it is nice to know an old dog can at least improve on his one trick if not actually learn some new ones.

Of course the other comment he had was the editing and grammar were atrocious! So much for inflated egos. Actually I know the editing needs some serious work. Anyone out there who cares to take a shot at doing some editing on these lists I would greatly appreciate.

I randomly fantazise about trying to compile these lists into something that could be published some day. Ah the wonders of fantasy.

Funny, I randomly fantasize about supporting Listology with my share of the proceeds from a "Best of Listology" book. And my wife is a copy editor . . . Perhaps someday. I seem to be saying "someday" a lot today.

I love your review of Atlantic City. While the decade may have been different, I also watched the film while in high school and felt a bit odd to be the only the viewer who really liked the film. Oh, and my friends all enjoyed Susan S. as well, even if that was the only element they dug.

Hmmm....

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs (who, yes, sees that you stopped just shy of Simple Men, you &*!# you! ;) )

Thanks. Atlantic City is a wonderful movie. I think any fan of really good cinema has those touchstone movies that help realize the true potential of really good movies. That was definitely one of them for me.

Of course consdiering the contributions of some of the younger Listologist's this generation may not be going through the same growing pains. AAA and AJdaGreat constantly amaze me on the maturity of high schoolers. Next thing they will be telling me is that being obsessed with good movies gets you in good with the ladies. If that is true, I know I grew up in the wrong decade :)

There you go Mr. Bangs, I have done my Simple Men write up. I am not sure I did a good enough job explaining the correlation but I guess you had to be there...

I am very pleased that one of your very best entries was with one of my favorite films. Your unease is our pleasure. I almost got in trouble here at work laughing at loud.

Not that it's funny, of course... ;)

Thank you, thank you.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

With tounge firmly in cheek all I have to say is the immortal words of Joe Pesci "But, I'm funny how? Funny like a clown? I amuse
you? I make you laugh? I'm here to f...n' amuse you?"

But Really thanks for the kind words. It always nice know my life is able to bring a little laughter to the world.

Did you like Libeled Lady? My wife and I were going through some old videotapes a couple of days ago when I discovered gold. I taped several films off of TCM back when we had that wonderful channel, and I guess I had lost until we were reviewing the tapes. I have King Kong (I've seen, but my wife hasn't), Libeled Lady, The Magnificent Ambersons (again, I've seen, but she hasn't, and boy does she have a treat waiting), and Jules & Jim (same as above). I felt like a goofy prospector who just struck the motherlode.

I think there may be even more taped films waiting after the ones I mentioned, which were all the first items on their respective videotapes. I seem to remember taping Top Hat and Stagecoach, at the very least.

I can't wait...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

First off Libeled Lady is very good. It is not Godfrey or Thin Man good but I think it was the first pairing of Myrna Loy and William Powell and you really can't go wrong with that. it also has touches of My Girl Friday. So I think you will enjoy it.

TCM is now the undisputed channel for the oldies. AMC has gone to a whole new format that includes commercials. (The Horror) and they are starting to show a lot more modern films. They are trying some inventions that could make it still worth watching but for now I am not too happy with their changes.

You and your wife are in for some good viewing.

Amen to TCM and AMC. I really don't get why AMC wants to show newer movies, since it edits the movies for content too. If I wanted edited-for-TV, modern movies that have commercials, why should I turn to AMC? There are plenty of other channels that do that same thing, and with better movies. I don't know how I'd get by without TCM - I really hope they preserve their integrity and continue to show letterboxed, old movies which are uninterrupted by commercials.

P.S. "Libeled Lady" is hilarious!

AMC is simply scrambling for the 20-40 year old market because that market brings more commercial revenue, and now that they are a commercial sponsered station... I HATE stations like AMC and VH1 that supposedly coddle that age range, a range I fall in, because they assume that all of us have no knowledge of the world before 1981 and would like to stay in this blind, blissful state of ignorance. I try not to watch and to support them (although the recent airing of Broadcast News with commentary did suck me in.).

I laugh my ass off when Predator 2 is presented as a golden movie classic.

These channels assume all 20 and 30 year old males liked and still like not only awful 80s action flicks but also hair metal. My God, one more special on Bon Jovi, Motely Crue, or Poison, and I will spew...

But yes, I think AMC is making a horrible mistake, but who knows? Maybe they're making more moolah this way.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

We have the special edition of Singin' In The Rain. My wife watched one of the features and she relayed two interesting things about the title dance number: Gene Kelly had the flu that day (what a trooper!) and the suit he was wearing was 100% wool. They did numerous takes, and you can see that his suit is different sizes at different moments because it visibly shrank over the course of the day. Incidentally, he's one of our favorites too (but isn't that true of everybody?).

I guess I'd have to disagree with your assessment of the special effect in The Sum of All Fears. I really found that event to be very anti-climactic. Maybe it was the best they could do. But, when I saw it, it really didn't make me feel a whole lot. I wasn't struck with awe or anything. I didn't feel they truly showed the results of such an event. And being that the whole movie is centered on this one event, it left the whole movie flat for me.

You know I'm one of those that wavers on old movies, so your Libeled Lady comments are very interesting to me. Personally, I like movies and I like theater, but I don't tend to like movies that feel like theater. But that still supports your theory. And I'm coming around. While I'm still unmoved by quite a few old movies that I'm "supposed" to like, there are more that I love, and those that I used to waver on are winning me over. Give me another 10 years and I should be over the hump.

While we're on the subject, I just watched The Philadelphia Story last night. Comments coming soon in the usual places . . .

Every person should develop a personal relationship with an under-rated, independent director. Congrats!

I confess that I found Lone Star to be very disappointing, but, on the other hand, in addition to the others you mentioned, I firmly believe that Passion Fish and The Secret of Roan Inish are films that deserve a much larger audience.

Have you seen Men with Guns yet? I still need to catch that one.

Oh, and he's in Something Wild, one of my very favorite cult films of the 80s... :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I've only seen 5 of his movies, but John Sayles is terrific. You've picked a good director to champion, in my estimatation. And your three latest entries are all going on my "to see" list, although I definitely won't be watching In the Company of Men with my wife, who likes to watch happy stuff these days.

I have been delinquent in my posting to this list but it has become a little unwieldy for me. I am either going to disband it or modify it depending on the time constraints some major changes in my life will cause.

I know all good things must come to an end, but I certainly hope you don't disband this series. In addition to enjoying your comments I get lots of fodder for my "to see" list from you. But I certainly understand time constraints. Is it just the new job, or are there other major changes? If the changes go beyond the new job, I hope they're good changes!

Hmm. Yet another entry from you that produces more items in my "to see" list (Elling, Kind Hearts and Coronets). I'm noticing a pattern. You like far too many movies for me to keep up. :-)

And here I thought I was the only person who considers Julianne Moore overrated.

I'm looking forward to you catching up with this list. Of the 28 you haven't reviewed yet (45-73), I've only seen 3 (Yojimbo, Mothman Prophesies, The Two Towers).

Mrs. Moore, overrated?! Gasp! I will pretend I did not hear that.

Nah, nah, nah, nah - I can't hear him...

;)

Nah, I just tell myself he's thinking too much about Hannibal, where Moore really did seem out of her water.

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Two words: Mag. Nolia. :-) Everybody seemed to love her (and the movie), but I found her performance shrill and overwrought (not to mention the movie). But I am nothing if not frequently wrong.

:)

Actually, I think she is rather good in both Paul T. Anderson's over-rated Magnolia and Mr. Anderson's over-rated Boogie Nights. She's also terrific in Short Cuts (another favorite of yours :) ) , Vanya on 42nd Street, and, of course, the film that largely made her reputation, 1995's Safe. Oh, and note her wonderful left-field performance in The Big Lebowski!

Oh, and in Far from Heaven, a wonderful film...

She was horrid, however, in Hannibal. :( (Sounds like a personal column... Horrid in Hannibal.)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Well maybe Short Cuts, when I finally see it all the way through, will turn me around. While I haven't been impressed with her to date, my mind remains open.

Now I'm going to turn around and defend her. Don't you love disagreeing with me? :-) I figure her Hannibal performance was dragged down by the movie, which had few redeeming features. Or was it no redeeming features? And Jodie Foster is an awfully tough act to follow. I'm not saying she was good, I'm just saying it's easy to excuse her for that one.

I know Julianne Moore is a good actress. I just think she is overrated. Many call her the next Meryl Streep and she is nowhere near that class of acting.

Movies where she is pedestrian at best but still gets a lot of acclaim.

Boogie Nights (she actually sucked and the movie was even worse)
Magnolia (she was better than Boogie Nights but that is not saying much)
End Of The Affair (that movie put me to sleep)
Far From Heaven (A by the numbers performance. I know this is contrary to everyone else's opinion but this is how I feel.)

She was bad in Hannibal. She actually was stupid enough to take a part in the Pyscho remake.

I actually liked her in The Shipping News and she could have a career as a comedienne as she was also good in The Big Lebowski and surprisingly she was ok in Evolution.

She was very good in Safe.

You saw a movie called Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter?! Now *that's* a review I'm looking forward to! :-)

For fear of jinxing you, I will not congratulate you on your adoption until it happens. But let me just say that I'm thrilled for you that your adoption is in progress! Best of luck my friend!

Unfortunately the best thing about Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter is the title.

Yes The Adoption process is moving along nicely and has been taking a lot of my time lately. I also start my new Job on Monday so I dont when I will get to catching up on this list. Maybe if I just stopped watching movies I could catch up.....MMM nah that's not going to work.

Hey, if you're interested in learning a bit of the language before you go I've heard wonderful things about the Pimsleur language programs (here's Russian I). By all accounts they are expensive but worth it. My father-in-law did Italian I before going on vacation there, and was able to maneuver around the country quite efficiently.

My wife is taking a Russian class. Seems it is an extremely difficult language....

I've heard it's quite difficult. There's a good book that might inspire her called How to Learn Any Language by Barry Farber. If I recall correctly, he thought that Hungarian was the hardest language.

She might want to supplement with the Pimsleur (if I can re-plug). It's really supposed to be great for pronunciation and retention.

Re: your "Libeled Lady" review

I couldn't agree more. My generation's distaste for old movies disgusts me. But hey, if you ever feel a strong urge to recommend an old movie to a minor, I'm always open to suggestions. (Hey, we both think that "Rashomon" is the greatest foreign film)

Well I certainly am not disgusted by anyone not having the same tastes as me but I get your point. And to be honest my coomnets were aimed more at people in my age range. Most of my friends and family who are in the 30's, 40's and 50's dont like old movies too much either. As to suggestions it seems you do a good enough job finding them without any help.

Rashomon is a wonderful movie. I am not sure something so cynical should be loved by a 15 year old though :)

Well, as for people my age, I didn't mean that I was disgusted that they have similar tastes than me. The fact is, most of them really haven't given older movies a chance, they've just completely blown them off as old and therefore bad. That's what disgusts me, their whole apathy towards old movies, not that they disagree with me. Hey, if someone hated "Rashomon", "Sunset Boulevard", "Duck Soup", and "12 Angry Men", along with some other of my favorites, but liked some old movies that I'm kinda indifferent about, then I would not be disgusted.

Aha! I thought of a good fourth movie in a series: "The Pink Panther Strikes Again." Although, technically, it's the 5th movie of the series, but I don't count the one starring Alan Arkin instead of Sellers. And "The Pink Panther Strikes Again" is one of the better movies of the series; I'd probably put it second after "A Shot in the Dark."

Dude, your to seen list reads like my Netflix queue! I watched about half of Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter and sort of enjoyed what I saw but I wasn't invested enough to finish it so I sent it back to Netflix. How was the last half?

A little more coherent than the first half but it is what it is a cheaply made movie that was at least smart enough to use its low budget as a gimmick.... If I still did drugs, I think this movie would have been a lot better...

Before getting in the mail, when I was just reading things online, I thought it sounded like a funny concept. It's too bad they didn't do more with it, and I really think they rushed too soon into making Jesus look like just another guy, if you know what I mean.

Y'know, judging from your appreciation of Sleepy Time Gal and 13 Conversations, and your viewings of 8 Women, The Fast Runner, Tadpole, Adaptation, and 14 Hour Party People, you might want to check out this year's Chlotrudis Award nominations. They'll probably appeal to you.
Their link is on the main page if you'd care to check 'em out.

AAA, interesting little tidbit. A freind of my wife was talking to some people recently about all the movies I watch and they thought it would be good for me to join an organization of movie lovers. She did not get the name but I am pretty sure it is Chlotrudis. Since I am three miles from the Brattle theatre it would make sense. Alas my time is very limited these days (probably why I am so behind in these write ups) so I am not sure I could join the organization. But depending on my schedule, maybe I could get to the awards ceremony. Maybe we could even drag Jim from the western part of the state if they ever finish paving the roads out his way...

Yeah, they'll drop 14 billion on *one tunnel* for the easterners, but out here in the wild west we're still stuck with wagon trails. :-)

Attending the awards ceremony could be lots of fun. Let me know if you guys are going to go.

On "Blood Work": I agree with your comments on the casting of the villain. My dad and brother both figured it out as soon as they saw Jeff Daniels, based on the same logic you used. Still, they loved the movie. I liked it, but not as much as they did. Just a fun (?) summer mystery. This is another spoiler, but for a different movie: "Charade" (1963). Do not continue if you have not seen "Charade." Also, do not read if you have not seen "Blood Work" either. This flaw of casting a big actor as the villain is even present in better movies. By the same logic, when I was watching "Charade" with my dad the other day, he figured about halfway through that Walter Matthau had to be the bad guy. You make a good point about this, it's a pretty dumb idea for making movies more predictable.

Good thing I didn't know who Waltar Matthou was the first few times I saw Charade Great point, though. I knew it was a huge problem in Blood Work within the first 10 minutes, but I hadn't realize the problem was present in Charade as well.