The Hudsucker Proxy
||When Waring Hudsucker,
founder of the incredibly successful Hudsucker Industries, unexpectedly
merges with the Infinite, a mail room flunky and would-be Idea
Man is suddenly made president of the company. Can his idea for
an extruded plastic dingus ("You know, for kids!")
save the suddenly foundering Blue Chip giant? Set on New Year's
Eve in 1958 (and made in 1994), this surreal tale of turmoil
at a major corporation is my favorite of the many fine films
by Joel and Ethan Coen.
||I'm a guy
who's not afraid to cry during a movie. In fact, I've cried at
many a film, and I consider it a sign of good storytelling when
a movie makes me weep. And for some reason, this odd Tim Burton
film from 1990 moved me to tears like few others have. I know
it sounds implausible, that a surreal Christmas tale about an
artificial man with scissors instead of hands could provide a
such a moving experience, but for me at least, it did. I get
choked up just thinking about the ending, when the origin of
snow is revealed.
||I've never been much
of a Doors fan, but I thought perhaps seeing this film would
help me get into their music. Now I'm even less of a Doors fan.
Jim Morrison was a jerk.
Toy Story 2
||Another rare example
of a sequel that's actually better than the original. It's great
stuff: hilarious, exciting, and even bittersweet. Plus it has
a subliminal advertisment for one of our products... at one point,
the toys are seen playing cards with what appears to be a 53 Spades deck.
But Alison raised a very good question: if Woody is actually
a rare collectible toy from 1957, why doesn't he have any memories
of his previous owners?
Being John Malkovich
||This is an
outstanding piece of surreal storytelling, set in exactly the
sort of slightly-twisted alter-reality that I really dig. It's
so wonderfully weird that I don't even want to try summarizing
the plot - I couldn't do it justice. I just wish this brilliant
story hadn't been wasted on such an unpleasant and unlikeable
bunch of characters... most everybody in this film is dishonest,
manipulative, mean, or rude. Nevertheless, this is the most thought-provoking
film I've seen in ages; I'm still reeling from the mental punch
send-up of the classic monster movie is quite possibly Mel Brooks'
best film (even though - or perhaps because - he stayed behind
the camera on this one). Gene Wilder plays Frankenstein's grandson,
who inherits the castle and picks up where grandpa left off.
It's a quote-master's must-see, and is required viewing for all
Teri Garr fans as well.
||Ever since the
night many years ago, when I stayed up to watch this classic
on the late late show with my brother Rash, one of my standard
interview questions has been this: If book prohibition ever became
a reality, what book would you want to memorize for the benefit
of future generations? A new version of this Ray Bradbury masterpiece
is currently in production (with Mel Gibson), so I recommend
seeing the undoubtedly superior 1966 version (directed by François
Truffaut) right now, before images from the new release taint
your impression of the forerunner.
||This visual effects-laden
thrill-ride about an African safari board game with real-world
consequences is loosely based on a children's book, by Chris
Van Allsburg. As usual, the book is better than the film, but
in this case, not by much.
The Nightmare Before Xmas
animated tale of the hostile takeover of Christmas by the folks
who bring us Halloween is best watched in early November, when
the Halloween spirit hasn't quite faded and the Christmas spirit
is just starting to emerge from hibernation. I just wish it didn't
have quite so many sappy songs.
12 Angry Men
||Henry Fonda stands
alone against 11 fellow jurors when he feels there's reasonable
doubt in the murder trial of an 18 year old inner city youth.
It's a fine example of how one man, arguing with sense, logic,
and cool persistance, can win an argument even in the face of
||The best way
I can think of to describe this amazing animated science fiction
story (a French-Czech film from 1973) is as a combination of
and the Codex
Seraphinianus. It tells the story of Ter, a human orphan
who grows up as little girl's pet on the incredibly strange planet
where gigantic blue aliens are dominant and humans live in the
||Ever wonder what became
of the people who built the giant stone heads on Easter Island,
and how and why they did it? This historical drama from 1994
takes place 300 years ago, on the isolated tropical isle of Rapa
Nui, long before it was discovered and renamed by the western
world. Not only does it provides answers to these questions,
but it also has a lot to say about the futility of religious
zeal, the dangers of overpopulation, and the folly of reckless
consumption (messages our own culture should probably be paying
more attention to).
||With modern special
effects technology, it's now possible to depict virtually anything,
including Orwell's classic novel of animal revolution. TNT's
new adaptation seemed very authentic to me (although it's been
almost a decade since I read the original). But where were the
||The newly remastered
version looks great and sounds even better, and the restoration
of missing scenes was particularly exciting to someone who's
seen this film as many times as I have. What's more, we had the
rare privilege of seeing it at the Senator, a classic movie palace
in Baltimore, one of just seven theaters around the country that
was showing the re-release in a special limited engagement. It
was really great seeing it on the big screen again, particularly
with the enthusiastic crowd that attended.
Back to the Future Part 3
||Like Return of the Jedi,
the closer is the weakest of the 3 films, but unlike RotJ, BttF3
is quite satisfying. And it co-stars Mary Steenburgen, who last
traveled through time with Malcolm McDowell in Time after Time.
Oddly enough, both of these adventures involved the destination
date of November 5th, which just happens to be my birthday. Perhaps
this is why I'm so time travel obsessed.
Back to the Future Part 2
||Rare indeed is the sequel
that's half as good as the original, but this is a case where
Part 2 was actually the best in the series. (It may even be the
best time travel movie ever made.) The intricate plot features
a dazzling trip into the future, a return to a present day (i.e.
1985) made radically different by timestream meddling, and a
timeline repair mission that takes place during the events of
the first movie. Great stuff! And it's the only film I've ever
seen that included a preview for its own sequel at the end: a
true glimpse of the future.
Planet of the Apes
||I used to think
I'd seen this film, even though I never actually had. I'd seen
clips and sequels aplenty, but never the original. Now I wish
I'd seen nothing else, and that I could have seen this film with
no prior knowledge of its content. The numerous sequels it has
spawned have served only to cheapen, weaken, and distract from
the brilliance of the original.
||This surreal tale
of a hapless word processor who staggers from one bizarre mishap
to the next through the course a single night in New York City
was an inspiration for me during my early writing efforts. Later,
I found out that parts of the storyline were stolen from a radio
show entitled "Work In Progress," by another of my
major influences, Joe Frank. Oddly enough, the material in question
came from "Lies",
the same episode that ends with the bit about the Nightwatchman
that first piqued my interest in Joe's work.
The Sixth Sense
||This Bruce Willis
thriller about a kid who sees ghosts was kind of like a really
good episode of the Twilight Zone (from, say, the first season,
when they were always really good), right down to an excellent
surprise ending that I totally didn't see coming.
||This Peter Weir film
starring Jeff Bridges as an airplane crash survivor changed forever
my own flying experiences. Now, whenever I fly, I find myself
unable to get certain moments from this film out of my mind,
particularly during landings. It kind of makes me wish I'd never
seen this film. But only kinda.
||I loved this film, for the same reasons I liked
the old Adam West Batman series more than those big budget movies,
which took themselves way too seriously. This film is extremely
funny, not to mention visually stunning. It's great fun, go see
||This French comedy
tells the story of an 11th century knight (and his squire) who
travel through time to the modern world (accomplished not through
technology but with a wizard's magic potion). What makes it great
is the fully-realized character of the knight... he confronts
the distant future with logic and determination, and sets about
developing a plan for getting home, just as any stranded time
traveler worth his salt would do. There are many laughs along
the way as the visitors misuse and misunderstand the details
of 20th century life. [Warning: subtitled.]
The Spirit of St. Louis
Stewart fills the tedium of his historic non-stop 33 hour transatlantic
flight by talking to a fly and reminiscing about his life (via
flashback). Nonetheless, this '57 classic makes for a very engaging
prequel to the Right Stuff. Charles Lindbergh sure did have it.
||Kevin Kline appears in "Wild
Wild West" as both the President of the USA and his identical
stand-in, but I liked him better when he played those roles in
this presidential tale from 1993.
Wild Wild West
of a fan of the vintage series on which this was rather too-loosely
based, I was prepared to suspend a lot of disbelief... but I
still had trouble getting my brain around a lot of what was depicted
in this movie. It's like a live action cartoon, in which the
impossible occurs every few minutes. Great special effects, though,
and laughs aplenty.
||When this early '80s
animated adult's comic book was finally released to video a couple
of years ago, a scene lost to the cutting room floor was restored.
The sequence, entitled "Neverwhere Land" is wondrous...
I can't comprehend why those 3 minutes were axed. I just wish
the segment was in its correct place in the film... it's clumsily
tacked on at the end, but it's clear from the intro and outro
where it really belongs.
Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged
one of those rare sequels that's actually better than the original.
But then, how can I not love a film that features the coolest
time machine since Dr. Emmet Brown's Delorean, namely a psychedelic
new Beetle convertible? I hope they make a die-cast metal toy
A Hard Day's Night
grandfather (who's very clean) is my favorite example of the
kind of wacky character I hope/plan to be someday, when I'm an
Tucker: The Man and His Dream
||This Hollywoodized version
of the true story of Preston Tucker, who started a car company
in 1947 that produced exactly 50 cars, is at once an inspiration
to anyone with the entrepreneurial spirit and a cautionary tale
about the dangers of yielding power to politicians who are beholden
to the interests of large corporations.
The 13th Floor
||The ads made this
look like a mad slasher / horror movie of the sort I would never
willingly sit through; but actually, it's a well crafted murder
mystery / suspense-thriller, centered around a highly detailed
virtual reality simulation of Los Angeles, circa 1937. It's kind
of a Blade Runner/Dark City/The Matrix sort of hybrid. I particularly
liked the way the 1937 scenes were all in washed-out sepiatone
color, like a faded vintage postcard come to life.
Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion
||I think it's
clear that Romy and Michelle's dance with Sandy Frinck near the
end was meant to suggest/symbolize a deeper relationship between
the trio; however, bisexuality and three person romances are
concepts that neither Romy and Michelle nor mainstream America
seem able to deal with at this time. So all we see is dancing.
Even so, this farce about two airheads who masquerade as successful
businesswomen at their ten year high school reunion is both funny
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
||I found the
origins of both 3PO and Anikin Skywalker rather difficult to
accept, but otherwise I thoroughly enjoyed this new Star Wars
movie. It's the best one since The Empire Strikes Back.
From the Earth to the Moon
||If you liked
Apollo 13, you owe it to yourself to find a way of seeing
this HBO-produced mini-series. If you don't get HBO, look for
it at das rentalplatz or order it from Columbia House. It's simply
fabulous. Each episode covers one mission, and each is a little
self contained movie about that mission, each seen from a different
||The Apollo 7 story is told through
the eyes of a team making a documentary about it; the Apollo
9 mission focuses on the team that built the Lunar Module; the
Apollo 16 episode is really about the astronaut's wives; and
the Apollo 8 story is as much about the turbulent year 1968 as
it is about mankind's first journey to the moon. It's all lovingly
made and riveting to watch. My only real complaint was the lack
of extra-serial continuity. The production included many of the
folks who worked on Apollo 13; it seems like this series
was meant to simply pick up where that film left off, to tell
the entire story, instead of just the most hair-raising chapter.
They use an interesting slant on the Apollo 13 mission, focusing
on the journalists covering the events and barely doing justice
to the story itself; it works great if you've already seen Apollo
13 (and better still if you pause to watch it at the correct
point in the series) but it kind of demands that the movie be
considered part of the follow-on series. So I was disappointed
that Tom Hanks didn't reprise his role as Jim Lovell, and instead
was simply the host (plus a minor role in the final episode).
He was a good host, but it would have been so much better if
Jim Lovell had looked like himself. Similarly, they've got the
guy who played Deke Slayton in Apollo 13 playing a minor
console jockey near the end of this series, and it was very jarring.
Why didn't they let him be Deke again? But I'm just nit-picking...
From the Earth to the Moon is a fantastic ride.
The Right Stuff
||When I first saw
this epic about the early years of the space program back in
1985, I immediately wished that Hollywood would continue with
the story, right on through the moon landings and Apollo 13.
Tom Hanks has finally done this for me with "From the Earth
to the Moon", but I regard "The Right Stuff" as
pre-requisite for that series. (And you'll still have to read
the book if you want to find out about Scott Carpenter's fun
The Truman Show
||I saw this mindblower
last summer and liked it so much I made myself a pin like the
one in the film, reading "How's
it Going to End?" Now I finally have it on video and
I'm half-watching it over and over again. (Alison said recently,
"You watch movies like other people listen to albums.")
But I see I didn't get the button design quite right; the real
one used a non-serifed font, with the text in all caps.
Never Been Kissed
date movie reminded me once again that, just once, I'd like to
go to a costume party where the guests are all as well-costumed
as they are in Hollywood versions of costume parties.
||This is one of those
intricate time travel stories that is so tightly woven you have
to see it twice (or even three times) in order to fully understand
it all. It's amazing. It's also got a delightful homage to the
Hitchcock classic Vertigo.
||I've made quite a study
of the various cinematic
depictions of the sinking of the Titanic, and while James
Cameron's '97 version is unquestionably the best, I must deplore
his omission of the role of the SS
Californian. [But even without that plotline,
it's too long; nowadays it's a half-watch
favorite, but I usually start at the nude modeling sequence,
just prior to the iceberg's appearance. (I wish that this was
where they'd split the movie on the video release, instead of
just after the collision occurs...)]
||It's great science
fiction with awesome special effects.... but unfortunately, it
also has a really excessive amount of gunfire and kung foo fighting.
[My favorite thing about it was the way the Matrix
appears on external monitors: as a computer screen covered with
columns of strange green symbols, cascading downwards like digital
rain. It would make for great Neutral
Television... I'm thinking about recreating it on my 3DO
||There were some very
good laughs but I found it ultimately unsatisfying. It just had
too many gangsters and therapists for my tastes. (Normally, I
would never have even gone to this film, but we were playing
Final Showtime Roulette and there just wasn't anything else.)
That Thing You Do!
||This Tom Hanks
production about a rock 'n roll band's rise to stardom in 1964
currently tops my all-time favorites list. It's funny and upbeat,
the music rocks, and it's an inspiration to anyone with dreams
of fame and success, whether in the music industry or otherwise.
||The body count
is higher than what my violence meter can usually handle (more
than 30 if I recall from the time when the crowd I was with did
this literally), but being as I am a fan of time travel stories,
I do have to admire this film.
2001: A Space Odyssey
||I remember being excited
about seeing this sci-fi epic as a kid, and then falling asleep
in the middle. Now it's a half-watch favorite, because its theme
of solitude sets the perfect mood for working late into the night,
while its casual pace keeps it from being too absorbing.
Men in Black
||This sci-fi comedy
hit from 1997 is currently on my Top Ten list and has a climax
(set in Flushing Meadows park) that is sure to delight any and
all New York World's Fair enthusiasts. You can tell that the
Unisphere has finally attained true landmark status when Hollywood
destroys it on the big screen. (However: the
New York State pavilion has 3 saucer towers, not just 2. But
||One part Coal Miner's
Daughter and one part The Right Stuff, this film is the coolest
nerd-hero movie since Apollo 13. It's set in October 1957, when
everyone in America was looking into the night sky for a glimpse
of Sputnik as it passed overhead. The film tells the true story
of the "Rocket Boys", four lads so inspired by Sputnik
that they build and launch a bunch of small rockets of their
Dances With Wolves
this classic Best Picture winner from 1990 inspired Dawn to ask,
"What do you think your Indian name would have been?"
I said I'd have probably ended up with something like Speaks
With Loud Voice.
||This week's film is a
two-part Made-For-TV "movie event", which was surprisingly
good. It's kind of like Forrest Gump, except without all that
phony crap about a moron with all the luck.
A Bug's Life
||As with the asteroid
movie showdown last summer, the second one to open was the better
of the two. It's a laugh riot. But at least in ANTZ, the ants
had an extra set of arms between their arms and legs; Disney's
ants are 4-appendaged mutants. What a cop-out!
North by Northwest
a treat to see this Hitchcock classic in a crowded big screen
theater. Watch for the little kid who puts his fingers in his
ears just before an unexpected shooting in a famous cafeteria.
You've Got Mail
||A sweet little
date movie about internet romance; I found it more interesting
than Sleepless in Seattle, but my favorite Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan
vehicle remains Joe Versus the Volcano.
||This is one of those
films that has so many plot twists and things that are not what
they appear to be at first, that you'll want to see it twice.
Like Hitchcock's masterpiece "Vertigo", it's a completely
different film the second time around.