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My Favorite Movies – Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

23 Nov

By Tanner Smith

Here’s one from my personal top 100. No, top 50. No, you know what? Maybe even top 10! It’s pretty much my definition of “a perfect movie,” and since it takes place around Thanksgiving, it’s declared the ultimate “Thanksgiving movie.” What better time of year to talk about it?

I’m of course talking about “Pieces of April.” What a delightfully droll indie gem with a winning performance from Katie Holmes as a quirky, rebellious young woman struggling to make everything perfect for her dying mother because this might be her last Thanksgiving– No, it’s obviously Planes, Trains & Automobiles. OF COURSE it’s “Planes, Trains & Automobiles!” Why would it be anything other than “PLANES, TRAINS & AUTOMOBILES??”

Sorry, not sorry. I love this movie. (Btw, “Pieces of April” is really freaking good too.)

Where do I begin with this one? Why do I love it so? Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s my idea of a “dramedy”–part comedy, part drama, and overall wonderful. With movies like this, City Lights, and 50/50, among others, I’ve learned that if there’s anything more important than a comedy that makes you laugh…it’s one that makes you feel.

Where does the comedy come in? Well, Steve Martin and John Candy are a great comic duo with differing personalities–Martin’s Neal Page is an uptight, tidy marketing exec; Candy’s Del Griffith is a messy, joyous (and blabbering) traveling salesman (of shower curtain rings). They meet by chance as they try to fly from New York City to Chicago. Del doesn’t have a good first impression after inadvertently stealing Neal’s cab en route to the airport, and it gets even worse when they’re seated together on the plane and Del WILL NOT SHUT UP. When a snowstorm forces them to land in Wichita, Del helps Neal find a motel room to sleep in…and one bed for them to share together.

We’re not even a half-hour in before Neal totally loses his cool with this slob. Del’s a good-natured guy, but he’s just too much for Neal when it comes to being friendly. And Neal blows up and lets him have it; at one point, he states that he could tolerate an insurance seminar before sitting next to Del on the plane and listening to him tell his boring anecdotes again. This kind of thing usually happens near the final act of your typical buddy comedy–but this is not your typical buddy comedy, as writer-director John Hughes will assure you. (This isn’t the only time Hughes toys with conventional story elements in this movie.)

Steve Martin’s long rant is funny…but the scene doesn’t entirely play for laughs. During this rant, we often cut back to John Candy’s face as the character takes it all in with genuine pain–and when Martin is finally done, Candy delivers a heartfelt monologue of his own, resulting in a wonderfully touching moment that makes me forget I’m watching a comedy.

Oh, and the morning after…is always a riot to watch. (“THOSE AREN’T PILLOWS!”)

This is only the first act! The rest of “Planes, Trains & Automobiles” includes a lot of great moments that follow, such as Neal trying to lose Del while fate keeps bringing them back together, they take a train, they rent a car, Neal has his infamous profane breakdown in front of an auto clerk, Neal and Del realize THEY’RE GOING THE WRONG WAY on an expressway, they finally become friends and learn a lot about each other on their journey to get Neal home in time for Thanksgiving dinner with his family… There’s just so much going on in this movie, and at barely an hour-and-a-half of running time, every minute counts.

A lot of it is very funny and the rest of it is very endearing. I already mentioned Del’s reaction to Neal’s angry words towards him (which is one of my favorite moments in any film honestly). But there are some more tearjerking moments that come right near the end.

And this movie earns those tears. We’ve spent this entire movie getting to know these two characters, and by the end of it all, we love them both.

Oh, and here’s a delicious piece of irony–if Del and Neal had just stayed at the Wichita airport, they would’ve been able to catch a flight out and make it to Chicago right on time. But where’s the fun in that?

I truly love this movie and I’ll be watching it with my family this Thanksgiving Day. It is one of my absolute favorite movies of all time.

My Favorite Movies – Home Alone (1990)

16 Nov

By Tanner Smith

It’s the hugely successful family comedy that didn’t get many positive reviews from critics at the time–well, it still remains a holiday classic to this day, so I wonder who brainwashed who?

I grew up with “Home Alone” and I still watch it every holiday season. It’s hilarious sometimes, heartwarming other times, and altogether a delight to watch every time.

And believe it or not, this is actually one of the first instances that pop into my head when I think of “character development.” Look at Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) at the beginning of the film and then look at him at the end of the film–this 8-year-old little bratty pissant has learned self-preservation and the value of family. It’s intriguing to see this kid’s coming-of-age journey in between.

I can see someone (let’s say an adult) watching this movie for the first time and thinking to themselves, “This is an annoying self-entitled little puke–why am I watching a movie about him?” And…yeah, in the early scenes, Kevin can be a bit much for the audience to handle, let alone his large family. But that’s just because most of us would rather forget how annoying and bratty we were at that age.

Then the kid is accidentally left alone in his large suburban household, after his extended family left for a vacation to Paris in a hurry. Well, now what’s to do? Easy answer: jump on the parents’ queen-size bed, eat all the junk food, go through your older brother’s private collection, watch violent movies, and do things your parents would never let you do before (like ride a sled down the stairs and out the front door)! That’s the first day alone–but on the second day, he needs a new toothbrush, so it’s time to steal some hidden money from the house and go out to buy one. And on the third day, he goes grocery shopping and even does some laundry because he knows when there’s play, there’s also work to be done.

Kevin is smarter than maybe even he thought, which also comes through when he learns of the constant reappearances of two burglars, Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), outside the house. He comes up with clever ways to fool them into leaving–turning on all the lights, setting up a fake house party with mannequins (seriously, how many mannequins are in this house??), and matching firecrackers with a TV-movie shootout. (“Keep the change, ya filthy animal!”)

But the charade doesn’t fool the “Wet Bandits,” as they’re called, for long, as they learn the kid’s home alone and decide to rob the house with him inside. So, Kevin sets up elaborate traps all around the house for them to fall into…bringing us to the hilarious sequence late in the film in which Harry and Marv get beat up…BAD!

This whole extended sequence is the comedic highlight of the film–it’s a kid’s wish fulfillment to take down the bad guys, and this takes it to the extreme. It’s been proven that many of these pranks would actually KILL someone in real life (go watch the “Honest Action – Home Alone” video on YouTube for a health professional’s opinion)–but in a movie, seeing irons and paintcans bounce off their heads and knock them to the ground is a riot to watch because Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are hamming it up big-time and play it as jerks who have it coming–it’s like a Three Stooges short or a Tom & Jerry cartoon in that the harder the hits, the funnier they are.

Eh…except when Marv steps on a nail. That was too much for me. (OUCH!!)

Obvious joke is that Kevin has become the Jigsaw Killer, to which I say, “Go see ‘Better Watch Out’ for a twisted version of ‘Home Alone’–the kid in THAT movie makes Macaulay Culkin’s sociopathic character in ‘The Good Son’ look like the Nutcracker Prince!”

What else is there to love about “Home Alone?” There’s actually a lot.

For one thing, I already mentioned that it was heartwarming. The way Kevin’s mother (Catherine O’Hara) practically threatens violence in her complicated journey to get back home to Kevin on Christmas Eve is funny but also very sweet. And of course, there’s the scene that even made George Costanza cry in one episode of “Seinfeld”–the church scene, in which Kevin has a moving heart-to-heart with an elderly, formerly intimidating neighbor (Roberts Blossom).

John Williams’ music score is also great, with a lot of memorable orchestral themes making for the best music composition I’ve ever heard in a comedy.

Director Chris Columbus’ work is often what could be labeled as “workmanlike,” but he deserves credit here for his uses of the colors red and green in the backgrounds and foregrounds to give the film a Christmas atmosphere. That’s another reason I love to watch this film around Christmas–it just FEELS like the type of film to watch during the season.

And of course, there’s young Macaulay Culkin, who was in the spotlight for a long time after this movie, which sadly didn’t do his life and career any favors. (Though, at least he seems happier now.) His work here in “Home Alone” is absolutely genuine, giving us a very bratty but also very innocent character to follow throughout the film. By the end, we’re happy that Kevin has learned his lesson…until “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”

“Home Alone 2″…is basically the same movie except set in New York. You could call it “Home Alone 2: The Search for More Money” (of which it made a bundle, because of course). Culkin and Columbus even make fun of what a pointless sequel it is in “Home Alone’s” audio commentary. But with that said, I do enjoy watching this sequel every year too. It has enough fresh humor and a certain charm to it that makes it fun for me to watch… Just don’t expect me to call it a legit good film–let me put it this way: it both “is” and “isn’t” “22 Jump Street,” at the same time. But if the people who made it can mock it and have fun with it at the same time, why shouldn’t I?

“Home Alone” is another holiday treasure written by the late, great John Hughes (“Planes, Trains & Automobiles”). I’ll probably watch it about 4-5 times by Christmas Day. (And that goes for “Home Alone 2” as well.)

My Favorite Movies – Half Nelson (2006)

15 Nov

By Tanner Smith

Acclaimed actor Ryan Gosling received his first Oscar nomination for playing a middle-school teacher with a crack habit in the great 2006 drama film, Ryan Fleck & Anna Boden’s “Half Nelson.” Gosling had already shown promise as a young rising star, with gripping work in “The Believer,” “The Notebook,” and “Stay.” But it was his performance in “Half Nelson” that became the breakthrough that his career needed.

“Half Nelson” is about good people who adopt bad habits, such as a father figure (played by Anthony Mackie) who is a drug dealer. And Gosling’s character Dan Dunne is the one in question. He’s a history teacher for an inner city middle school and he’s very good at what he does, despite (or rather, because of) not sticking to the assigned syllabus. One of the most subtle touches of Gosling’s performance is that the only thing that truly gets him excited is when he gets to talk of arguments of power and world politics (whether in or out of the classroom), showing that it’s the very thing he has a real passion about. But it’s mostly when he’s outside of school (or even when he’s in the teacher’s lounge) that he’s half-dead, even smoking crack as a vice to get him through the strangeness of life.

He forms a friendship with one of his students, Drey (Shareeka Epps), after she discovers his habit. And he learns more about her (such as how Mackie, the dealer, gets her involved in his business), enough to get an idea of what she needs and what she should avoid. But who is he to judge? Therein lies the interesting question surrounding Gosling’s character—can a basehead be a good role model? Is that even possible?

Gosling has to portray a man who means well, who is good at his job, and who can give good advice…but he also has to portray him as flawed, destructive, irresponsible to himself and potentially others. Who is Dunne in the classroom? He’s a cool, hip teacher whose class most of us would be happy to take. Who is Dunne outside the classroom? He’s practically a zombie. We see how he lives in his small apartment, how he wakes up in the morning on a hardwood floor, and how he drags himself to work each day.

This is why Gosling’s performance is so powerful and why it deserved many accolades—he’s able to pull it off with the right amount of body language, carefully written dialogue (and a bit of improvisation as well), and subtlety to get us to understand what goes on in this person’s head and why we should care.

Gosling IS this movie—if he didn’t convince us that he was capable of so many layers to put on this performance, it would all fall apart. Dan Dunne is not a bad person—he just has a bad habit. We know a lot of people like that, and “Half Nelson” reminds us of it.

Ryan Gosling would go on to stardom and subsequent impressive performances (“Drive,” “The Nice Guys,” and “La La Land,” just to name a few). But we shouldn’t forget that it was “Half Nelson” that showed the world that he deserved the attention to begin with.

My Favorite Movies – Phantom Town (1999)

3 Nov

By Tanner Smith

Why am I talking about THIS movie?

Well that’s a stupid question–the answer is “Because it’s awesome!”

Or maybe it’s just nostalgia goggles, since I grew up with these straight-to-video movies that were made with kids in mind. But I watched A LOT of cheesy direct-to-video family fare, and upon rewatching them as an adult for curiosity’s (and nostalgia’s) sake, a lot of them didn’t hold up as well. (Some of them were just straight-up PAINFUL to rewatch!)

So, I don’t have the best explanation as to why I enjoy “Phantom Town” just as much now as I did when I was a little kid…but I don’t care. I just like it. Not too long ago, I even admitted it was one of my top 100 personal faves.

“Phantom Town” is about three kids whose parents disappear one night and they go out to look for them. Their only clue is the name of a desert town (“Long Hand”) they seemingly got lost in, but the town doesn’t seem to appear on any road map. They do find the place, which seems to be in an Old West time warp. But it’s a bit more complicated than that, as it turns out the whole town is taken over by an ancient evil that seeks to consume the souls of anyone who enters its domain.

Oh, and there’s a lot of green slime that the people bleed…I was 8 years old when I first saw this movie over a dozen times, and I was a big “Goosebumps” book fan at the time, so I kept referring to the green slime as “Monster Blood.” (Oh, and the furniture bleed the stuff too, because the whole town is like one giant living creature. It even has a nervous system underneath, like a cavernous maze–and guess what, there’s more green down there too.)

Like I said, I was about 8 years old when I first watched it (my parents rented it for me at the video store countless times). Every time I watched it, I always loved it. (And when I taped it once on TV, I was even more excited when I found three deleted scenes that weren’t on the official VHS release!) Why did I love it so much? In hindsight, I think I have my answer. It wasn’t talking down to me because it knew it was made for kids like me–instead, it wanted TO SCARE ME because that’s why I was seeing a scary movie!

There’s creepy music, with what sounds like moaning over the score, that I’ll never forget. (In fact, every time I rewatched the film and the music started to play over the opening main title, I always got shivers!) There are zombies posing as the kids’ parents, scratching at the car windows while the kid is trapped inside the car. (WTF?!) There’s a scaly gunslinger chasing after the kids. There’s a giant eyeball monster with tentacles that trap them at one point. There’s all kinds of odd folklore (which I’m not sure is accurate to Native American lore, but I’m going to guess it isn’t) that’s set up before the kids set foot into the evil town. The film even ends with the little girl screaming when she realizes that the nightmare isn’t over after we thought our heroes escaped it! This is just before the credits roll–no other movie I was seeing at that age was that gutsy!

I can’t help it. I have a real soft spot for the movie. Granted, the CGI is pretty bad, which makes me appreciate the practical effects even more. Some of the acting is a little wooden, particularly from the middle child, played by Taylor Locke, who was related to one of the film’s producers (but at least he’s better here than he was in “Aliens in the Wild Wild West”–oh yeah, THAT was a thing!). And not everything really adds up when you really think about it. But I can never look at “Phantom Town” as just another one of those cheap monster movies I watched as a kid, because I still love watching it as an adult.

My Favorite Movies – Begin Again (2014)

20 Oct

By Tanner Smith

Here’s a movie that I watched for the first time during quarantine in 2020 and I instantly fell in love with.

“Begin Again,” written & directed by John Carney (who also made Once and Sing Street)…you know, I don’t like that title. “Begin Again?” I’m just gonna call it “Twice,” because it’s essentially a Hollywood remake of Carney’s indie hit “Once.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with it having many shades of “Once.” Far from it. In fact, I absolutely praise and adore this movie for being so great at being what it is: a wonderfully acted & executed “a-star-is-born” story with equal parts domestic realism and fairy-tale sweetness.

I rented the DVD from the library before quarantining with my family during lockdown in 2020. Soon after watching it (for the first time), I’ve shown it to my mom, who loves it as much as I do, and we watched it countless times together.

I could say I don’t know how I missed this movie when it was released in 2014, but maybe I was too focused on films like Boyhood and Life Itself to pay attention to much else. But better late than never.

Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo star in the movie. Knightley plays an English singer-songwriter who joins her boyfriend (Adam Levine, strangely not playing himself) who’s a pop icon making it big in New York City. That her talents are underappreciated by his record label is bad enough, but he’s also been having an affair with one of his assistants. This leads her to perform a sad ballad at an open-mic rathole, where no one seems to pay attention to her…except for Ruffalo, who plays a depressed, alcoholic, washed-up record producer who hears magic in her performance.

The moment I saw that scene, in which Ruffalo watches and listens to Knightley perform her song “A Step You Can’t Take Back,” was when I knew I was going to love this movie. Upon first viewing, I had to rewind and replay it three times before continuing the rest of the film. Everything about that scene made me happy. It’s a moment in which Ruffalo shines as a down-on-his-luck alcoholic depressive suddenly finds purpose.

It’s also a good song, which leads me to another reason for me to love this movie: the original soundtrack is very impressive! As the movie progresses, with Ruffalo producing an album for Knightley and her newly recruited backup band in a most unconventional way (not recording inside a studio but all over NYC outside), we get catchy tracks like “Coming Up Roses” and “Tell Me If You Wanna Go Home,” all of which I would happily pay for, download, and listen to repeatedly!

Oh, and there’s a song Knightley and James Corden (playing her friend who helps with the album) perform a breakup song for Levine over voicemail. The song (“Like a Fool”) is good, but there’s a moment where Corden tries to bring a kazoo into the accompaniment that freaking kills me! (Corden gets a lot of flack as an actor, but he’s funny and likable here as Knightley’s friend.)

The only songs I didn’t care for were the ones I don’t think I was supposed to like, such as Levine’s remixed pop hits. Whenever they play, I mock, “Ugh! I’m sick of Maroon 5!”

And I love the overall spirit of these talented people “going indie,” as I like to put it, and creating their art without the help of wealthy studio execs. (You could argue that’s a bit hypocritical, since this film was made and released by a big studio. But do I care? NO!)

The biggest song that apparently got a lot of attention after this film’s release was “Lost Stars,” which was also nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar. We hear many versions of this song (including a horrible studio-influenced remix), but the final version, performed by a sincere Levine…..yeah it’s pretty great. (Congrats, movie–you got me to like a 2010s Adam Levine song.)

So, yeah! I love “Begin Again”–er, “Twice.” I love it as much as any other movie made by this super-talented filmmaker who clearly loves music and film and the way the two can blend together to convey emotion and passion.

My Favorite Movies – Knives Out (2019)

18 Oct

By Tanner Smith

I actually want to say very little about “Knives Out” because I don’t know how many people have seen it by now. And to those people who haven’t yet, I say this: it is a perfect film to go into as cold as possible. All I’ll say about it is there’s a wealthy family, the patriarch is found dead, is it suicide (like the police determined) or is it murder (like Daniel Craig’s private-detective Benoit Blanc suspects)…and that’s all I’m going to say about the plot because believe me, it gets complicated. And fun.

You think you’ve seen it all in terms of “whodunnit” and “murder mystery”? I don’t think you’ve seen one quite like “Knives Out!”

This is a wonderfully crafted movie, so much so that as great as it is to see it for the first time, it’s surprisingly even better the second time. When you know all the secrets upon seeing this film again, it’s easier to admire and appreciate all the delicate care that went into crafting this BRILLIANT screenplay and the expert filmmaking that followed. Rian Johnson, who was on a lot of people’s sh*t-list for quite some time because of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (those people, Johnson rubbed off as “trolls” and “manbabies”), showed everyone his truest talent by working super hard.

Thankfully, it paid off. I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t love this movie.

Again, I don’t want to go into too much detail here, because it’s too good for me to spoil. This is going to be one of those films that will stay with me and fascinate me with each passing viewing.

My favorite scene: I’ll try to be as vague as possible…but it involves a lot of people talking down to each other…and they have no idea what’s coming to them soon after. (If there’s anything I love more than seeing horrible people get theirs, it’s seeing RICH horrible people get theirs!) I remember at the theater I work at, my coworkers and I would catch glimpses of that scene when the film screened–we giggled hysterically because we knew what was coming, having already seen the film.

There’s been talk of a spin-off film featuring a new mystery involving Benoit Blanc–I will happily see it!

My Favorite Movies – The Exorcist (1973)

15 Oct

By Tanner Smith

There were people who thought the Devil himself was actually in on “The Exorcist”…hopefully, no one still thinks that after actually WATCHING “The Exorcist.”

If you look at IMDb Trivia for “The Exorcist,” it states that apparently actress Linda Blair, who played a girl possessed by a demon, received death threats from religious zealots who believed the film “glorified Satan.” First of all, who were these people–Westboro Baptist?? Secondly, there is no way “The Exorcist” “glorified Satan.”

I’ll get to that, but first, here’s a little background:

“The Exorcist,” nearly 50 years old, is still declared one of the scariest movies of all time. This film holds up really well, and the scenes that freaked a lot of people out then still scare them now. There are many reasons why it still gets under the skin of many people, but I think the main reason is that it doesn’t seem like it was made as a horror film–it seems more like it was made with intent focused on character development and gritty atmosphere, and director William Friedkin used that to make it all the more impactful when the more horrific stuff occurs. The film is scary because it feels real. That’s how many of the best horror films become successful.

I will admit…the first time I saw “The Exorcist,” I was 14 years old and had already seen the most iconic moments from the movie (thanks to a DVD I repeatedly watched, about unforgettable movie moments)–the possessed Regan (Linda Blair) vomiting on Father Karras (Jason Miller) and the parts of the exorcism that included spinning the head around and floating above the bed. I was expecting more scenes like that, not character drama, inner battles involving questioning faith, suffering loss, and lots of hospital visits. (Though, even watching it today, I think a few scenes involving medical-help could’ve been trimmed.) I just didn’t “get” “The Exorcist” when I first saw it. As time went on, however, I was able to see what it was truly about and that it was not just another scary movie; when I did, I really loved it.

Anyway, the plot involves wealthy actress Chris MacNeil (Ellen Burstyn) and lower-class priest Damien Karras (Jason Miller) in two separate stories that wind up together when it becomes clear that Chris’ ill pre-teenage daughter Regan (Linda Blair) is possessed by a demonic spirit. Before Karras even visits the possessed Regan, we’re over an hour into the movie, and we’ve already gotten to know these characters as flawed people who are put into a situation that challenges their belief system. Chris is so successful in her line of work; she and Regan are happy together; it doesn’t seem like anything can go wrong…and then Regan gets very sick, and Chris tries so many things to make sure she gets cared for. And Karras is shaken after the death of his mother–this causes him to question his faith for a good period of time before Chris finds him and begs him to see Regan, now that she’s exhausted other options.

Something I love about when Karras first meets the possessed Regan, tied to a bed, her face all distorted, and her voice altered (and recorded by Mercedes McCambridge), is that he eases into believing that there’s something wrong with this girl apart from mental trauma. Regan demands he remove the straps keeping her confined to the bed. His response? “If you’re the Devil, why not make the straps disappear?” He’s challenging her. It’s only when he notices something that can’t be explained that he can’t deny what’s really happening. Then, he calls for an exorcism with Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow), and that leads to a battle of wits and fears.

The film takes its time with the scares, and that’s why it affected audiences (some of which had to be taken out of the theater by paramedics). “The Exorcist” is essentially a character study interrupted by the supernatural, which makes for an intriguing horror film. We feel bad for Regan because she’s a sheltered child suddenly being taken over from within. We feel sympathy for Chris because she learns evil can invade her life, no matter how rich she is. And we feel what Karras is going through in this complicated point in his life when he doesn’t know what to believe anymore and he needs something to help regain his faith. (Jason Miller is really the emotional backbone of the movie–he’s really good here.) When something terrible happens to them, we feel it as it hits us deeply.

OK, now let’s talk about the load of junk that’s been hurled against “The Exorcist” that the film “glorified Satan.” That is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard about how people regard a horror film. I don’t think ANYONE who thinks that has actually seen the movie. For one thing, William Peter Blatty, the author of the film’s source novel, was Catholic and wrote the book based on his studies. For another thing, this is more a film about coming to grips with yourself and finding the courage to continue in dire situations, which is one of the common things the Bible teaches us. And finally, it’s a story based on faith and how it can help you out of some situations. How do I know this? (SPOILER ALERT!) Because the Devil doesn’t win in this movie. There is no way you can make me believe that “The Exorcist” glories the Devil in any way!

There are so many other movies about demon possession and exorcism…but not one of them came even close to the power “The Exorcist” brought us.

My Favorite Movies – Hot Rod (2007)

14 Oct

By Tanner Smith

I did not catch “Hot Fuzz” or Superbad in theaters in 2007, but I did see “Hot Rod” TWICE in a theater and it made me laugh out REALLY loud–so at least I was exposed to some good cinematic hilarity that year.

“Hot Rod” came out at just the right time for 15-year-old me. A few months prior, I had watched my first “SNL” episode (the one with Shia LaBeouf, the weekend “Disturbia” opened) and that was where I discovered comedians like Bill Hader, Kristen Wiig, Fred Armissen, and of course Andy Samberg–and I also discovered upon subsequent episodes more of what Samberg and his buddies Jorma Taccone and Akiva Shaffer, collectively called The Lonely Island, were about.

Lazy Sunday. D*ck in a Box. Roy Rules! And then I caught a trailer for something called “Hot Rod,” which starred Samberg as a would-be stuntman who crashes HARD and gets back up for me…and I just knew I HAD to see this movie!

It didn’t disappoint. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said I “lol’d,” because a lot of the nuttiness I was seeing on the big screen was HILARIOUS to 15-year-old Tanner!

Nowadays, “Hot Rod” is still so damn funny, but there’s one scene in it that still makes 29-year-old Tanner laugh out really loud upon each viewing. It’s the “Footloose” homage set on a mountain that results in…well, if you haven’t seen it, I won’t spoil it for you.

Another scene that still makes me LOL is the riot scene, featuring the song “You’re the Voice,” by John Farnham.

How’s the rest of the film? Well, while a lot of the hilarity has worn off on me with time, the charm sure hasn’t. “Hot Rod” is surprisingly sincere and isn’t mocking the characters so often, because it likes these central characters.

Speaking of whom, the central characters of Rod (Samberg) and his crew (Jorma Taccona, Bill Hader, and Danny McBride) are all funny and (more importantly) likable. I wish Isla Fisher as the love interest had more to do than just play the typically bland love interest, because if you watch her in other movies like “Wedding Crashers” and “Definitely, Maybe,” she’s freaking hilarious–here, she’s just a pretty face. But Will Arnett as Rod’s rival for her affections is amazing here.

Samberg was already becoming one of my favorite funnymen, thanks to the SNL Digital Shorts, but upon seeing this movie initially, he cemented his status (along with Jack Black) as one of my favorite funny people in America. (The Tenderloins, aka the Impractical Jokers, now share that high ranking for me as well.)

Since this film’s release, Samberg and his fellow Lonely Island cohorts have released other gems like Jizz In My Pants and I’m On a Boat, among other classics (btw, I own all of their albums), Samberg landed a main role on the show Brooklyn Nine-Nine, he killed as a host on the Indie Spirit Awards in 2013 (I’ll never forget his monologue, which sticks it to the Hollywood system), and the Lonely Island guys are all still working together, even as producers on recent movies such as Brigsby Bear, Palm Springs, and I Used to Go Here. (When I see their logo “Lonely Island Classics” pop up in the same font & background as “Sony Pictures Classics,” I smile from ear to ear.)

I almost forgot to mention “Hot Rod” was directed by Akiva Shaffer, and he, Samberg, and Taccone had all collaborated on the screenplay after it was initially written by Pam Brady as a Will Ferrell vehicle. Shaffer and Taccone also co-directed (and co-starred in, with Samberg) the equally funny “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping” nine years after “Hot Rod.” And it’s a shame that neither of these two movies were box-office hits, but it’s a blessing they were both able to find more life on home media.

My Favorite Movies – Super Dark Times (2017)

14 Oct

By Tanner Smith

SPOILER WARNING!!!

I first saw this film at a festival in Little Rock, Arkansas in May 2017. I didn’t know much about it, but I had free time and a free screening pass–so I went into the screening a little cold. I’m glad I did, because “Super Dark Times” is one of those chilling films that kept me on-edge throughout and still creeps me out upon repeated viewings.

It was also great that director Kevin Phillips was there to partake in a Q&A and discuss his vision of the film. (Afterwards, I got to shake hands with him in the theater lobby. Nice guy.) Even better is that the Indie Spirits nominated him for the Someone To Watch Award for the 2018 Film Independent Spirit Awards. I’ve watched this film many times over the past few years since its streaming release; I’ll gladly see what film this director will come up with next.

“Super Dark Times” is set in the mid-1990s, as evidenced by televised Clinton speeches, a mention of renting “True Lies” on videotape, and one gang of passive-aggressive jerkass teens and another group of ’90s teens hanging out together outside instead of staying inside and playing on their mobile devices. The latter group of teens are our main focuses (bullied by the former, who mostly smoke weed and are less ambitious than the others)–there’s Zach (Owen Campbell), the shy, awkward type; Josh (Charlie Tahan), Zach’s angry best friend; Charlie (Sawyer Barth), the younger kid who wants to fit in with the older boys; and most detestable, Daryl (Max Talisman), the loud, obnoxious friend that nobody likes because he never shuts up. The early scenes of the film are a highlight, as Zach and Josh spend their time chatting about the girls they like, riding their bikes through the neighborhood, and hanging out with Daryl and Charlie, even buying strange snacks at the gas station just to see how they taste. (I have to wonder what the “dried squid” they eat truly tastes like.)

These boys are basically Stan, Kyle, Kenny, and Cartman from “South Park”…except (and here’s where spoilers begin) Kenny isn’t the one who dies here; Cartman is.

Yep–Daryl dies tragically and horribly nearly a half-hour into the film, as the boys were playing with a katana sword belonging to Josh’s older brother (who is now in the Marines) and Daryl’s big mouth and aggressive behavior leads to an intense argument which results in Daryl’s accidental (and gruesome) death.

The scene is terrifying and brilliantly acted by the young principals. (Everyone’s panicked screaming is both convincing and haunting, but Charlie’s repeated exclamation of “WHAT DID YOU DO!!!” will always stay with me.) The world each of these boys live in has just been altered into something, well, “super dark,” and now they have to deal with it. Too scared to go to the police about the situation, they decide to bury Daryl’s body in the woods and leave it alone. (Side-note: Charlie, if we’re to see him as the film’s “Kenny,” actually stays out of things and avoids Josh and Zach so he doesn’t have to worry about anything–that’s a little funny to me.)

What follows that very night is one of the best scenes of the film, as Zach comes home to find his crush Allison (Elizabeth Cappuccino) waiting for him after his loving single mother (Amy Hargreaves) invited her in. This couldn’t come at a worse time for him as he’s clearly going through PTSD and just isn’t in the mood to take Allison’s advances as she seduces him in his own bedroom. Poor kid.

Btw, there is a film theory floating around online that Allison, who comes off as kind and sweet, knows about the death and cover-up and is also responsible for everything else that happens later in the film, like a manipulative puppet-master. Interesting theory, especially if she knows that both Zach and his best friend (Josh) have crushes on her and that helps elevate the tension later, but…I don’t buy it. Obvious joke is she’s not THAT kinda high-school-mean-girl.

Josh stays home from school the next day, gets into trouble when he goes back to school later, and doesn’t stay in contact with Zach, who takes it upon himself to make sure nothing about them seems suspicious as Daryl’s disappearance becomes news (though, very few classmates care about him being gone). Zach doesn’t have to worry about Charlie, who breaks himself off from Zach (“If anyone asks, we’re not friends”)–but Josh? Maybe a little bit.

Zach is having a tough time dealing with this himself, suffering from surreal and horrifying nightmares about the incident. These sequences are very “Donnie Darko” in execution, meaning very strange and memorable. (No wonder the trailer described the film as a mix of “Donnie Darko” and “Mean Creek.”) One is a result of taking Nyquil before bed; the other…well…I’ll just say it’s embarrassing to have it happen in class.

But back to Josh. Something inside of him snaps. It may have happened the day of the incident, but it was building up before then, as evidenced by his apparent anger towards the bullies in an earlier scene–it seems clear (to me, anyway) that whether Daryl’s death was an accident or not, Josh is now letting that anger take him over, causing him to go on an unassuming killing spree. And because Zach and Josh aren’t as close as they were (and because Zach is our key focus throughout the film), the mystery of Josh grows more disconcerting and dangerous, leading Zach (and us) to fear for other people’s lives.

The climax of “Super Dark Times” is deeply disturbing and chilling, as Zach races against time to get to Josh’s new victims before it’s too late, and former best friends Zach and Josh must confront each other. The film ends shortly after that, leaving Zach’s fate ambiguous–Allison bears the scars of the event, Josh gets arrested, and maybe even Charlie, who wanted to keep out of things the whole time, will be investigated, but what about Zach? I don’t know…but it’s interesting to think about.

And thus ends a deeply disturbing and “super dark” thriller/horror film that still, after many viewings, gets under my skin for all the right reasons. It’s not a dumb teen slasher film nor your typical psychological thriller–it works on many more different levels than that. On one level, it’s about how a romantic triangle can damage a friendship, especially when, on another level, the interests of one of the friends differ from the other’s (AND HOW!)–and on another level, it’s about how one behaves when things are at their bleakest.

One final thing I want to mention here is the performance of Charlie Tahan as Josh. He’s nothing short of brilliant, with a performance that has many levels all its own. Every time I watch this film, I always wonder what he might be thinking…

All My Favorite Movies (So Far)

13 Oct

By Tanner Smith

In the past few years, I’ve tried getting across what are many of my favorite movies–such as lists that keep changing (because that’s what lists about personal matters tend to do) and in-depth personal retrospectives about each film (when it will end, I do not know). Well…I’m just gonna go year by year and simply list my absolute favorite titles, one year at a time.

That’s all I’m gonna do here, but I’ll also rank them in four different categories (“personal faves,” “definite faves,” “very close to being faves,” and “need to see again”). And as with the lists from years ago, this is just how I feel about my faves in this moment. (But at least I’m honest about it.)

There’s going to be a LOT of movies to title-drop here…but that’s just because I love movies so much.

Starting from…let’s say 2020 and down:

2020
Personal faves: David Byrne’s American Utopia, The Rental, Yes, God, Yes, I Used to Go Here
Definite faves: The Invisible Man, Bad Education, The Half of It, Spontaneous, Palm Springs, The King of Staten Island
Very close to being faves: Run, Impractical Jokers: The Movie, All Together Now, Freaky, Host, Stargirl, Horse Girl, Saint Frances, Banana Split, Tigertail, Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Need to see again: Soul, Hamilton, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, I’m Your Woman, Promising Young Woman, The Assistant, Come As You Are, The Trial of the Chicago 7, Rent-A-Pal
(Anyone who says 2020 was a lousy year for movies clearly didn’t watch enough movies.)

2019
Personal faves: The Farewell, Parasite, 1917, Honey Boy, Little Women, Us, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Booksmart
Definite faves: Avengers Endgame, Jojo Rabbit, Doctor Sleep, Knives Out, Rocketman, Uncut Gems, Shazam!, Dolemite is My Name, Joker, The Peanut Butter Falcon, Luce, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Blinded by the Light, Long Shot, Ready or Not, Happy Death Day 2U, Brittany Runs a Marathon, Fast Color, Marriage Story
Very close to being faves: Frozen II, Spider-Man: Far From Home, It Chapter Two, Jumanji: The Next Level, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Haunt, Hustlers, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Good Boys
Need to see again: Toy Story 4, The Irishman, Ford v. Ferrari, The Lighthouse, John Wick Chapter 3, The Mustang, El Camino, High Flying Bird, Wild Nights with Emily

2018
Personal faves: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Mid90s, Black Panther, Lean on Pete, Boy Erased, Wildlife, Hearts Beat Loud, Leave No Trace, Private Life, A Quiet Place, Creed II
Definite faves: Three Identical Strangers, American Animals, Eighth Grade, Avengers: Infinity War, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, If Beale Street Could Talk, Paddington 2, Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, Shirkers, Searching, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, First Reformed, Love, Simon, Minding the Gap, Roma, The Hate U Give, The Land of Steady Habits, Halloween, The Tale, Free Solo, Ben is Back
Very close to being faves: A Star is Born, Hereditary, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Overlord, Thoroughbreds, Annihilation, Upgrade, Before I Wake, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Need to see again: They Shall Not Grow Old, Mission: Impossible–Fallout, First Man, Blindspotting, Shoplifters, Measure of a Man, Deadpool 2, Green Book

2017
Personal faves: 45RPM, Brigsby Bear, Get Out, The Disaster Artist, It, The Big Sick, Lady Bird, Logan, Call Me By Your Name, Split, Last Flag Flying, Super Dark Times, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected)
Definite faves: Spielberg, Brad’s Status, War for the Planet of the Apes, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Thor: Ragnarok, The Post, Gerald’s Game, Spider-Man: Homecoming, First They Killed My Father, Columbus, I, Tonya, Coco, Gifted
Very close to being faves: Power Rangers, Ingrid Goes West, Better Watch Out, Stronger, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond, Creep 2, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, The Babysitter, A Ghost Story, The Florida Project, Okja, Win It All, Dayveon, T2: Trainspotting
Need to see again: Big Sonia, Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, Baby Driver, Molly’s Game, The Lego Batman Movie, John Wick Chapter 2, All the Money in the World, Wonder, Wind River, Colossal, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

2016
Personal faves: Midnight Special, Hush, Kung Fu Panda 3, Sing Street, 20th Century Women, Lights Out, Everybody Wants Some!!, Green Room, Train to Busan, Operation Avalanche, Don’t Think Twice
Definite faves: Deadpool, The Nice Guys, Moonlight, Ouija: Origin of Evil, 10 Cloverfield Lane, Miss Stevens, Arrival, De Palma, Kubo and the Two Strings, The Edge of Seventeen, The VVitch, Pete’s Dragon, Southside With You, Rogue One, Loving, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders
Very close to being faves: The Invitation, Hail Caesar!, Captain America: Civil War, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, The Jungle Book, Don’t Breathe, Raiders!, Blue Jay, Other People, The Shallows, The Conjuring 2
Need to see again: A Monster Calls, La La Land, Zootopia, Take Me to the River, Asperger’s Are Us, Little Men, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, Moana, Manchester by the Sea, Hell or High Water

2015
Personal faves: Inside Out, The End of the Tour, The Stanford Prison Experiment, Spotlight, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Gift, Unfriended
Definite faves: Creed, Mad Max: Fury Road, Cop Car, It Follows, Love & Mercy, Room, Steve Jobs, Turbo Kid, Mistress America, Two Step, Trainwreck, The Final Girls, The Visit, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2, Paper Towns, Straight Outta Compton, Infinitely Polar Bear, The Walk, The Diary of a Teenage Girl
Very close to being faves: Predestination, Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, Krampus, Bridge of Spies, Dope, The Big Short, A Girl Like Her, Ex Machina, True Story, No Escape, Grandma, Digging for Fire, While We’re Young
Need to see again: Beasts of No Nation, The Revenant, Amy, When Marnie Was There, The Hateful Eight, Carol, Brooklyn, What We Do in the Shadows, Unexpected, Mississippi Grind, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Tangerine, I Believe in Unicorns

2014
Personal faves: Sacred Hearts, Holy Souls, Life Itself, Whiplash, Boyhood, Begin Again, The Sacrament, Laggies
Definite faves: Rich Hill, Man Shot Dead, Chef, Big Hero 6, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, 22 Jump Street, The Wind Rises, Top Five, How to Train Your Dragon 2, Blue Ruin, The One I Love, St. Vincent, Obvious Child, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Oculus, Birdman
Very close to being faves: The Lego Movie, The Guest, John Wick, X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Fault in Our Stars, The Skeleton Twins, Joe, Big Eyes
Need to see again: Snowpiercer, The Imitation Game, Nightcrawler, Dear White People, The Babadook, Selma, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Foxcatcher, Gone Girl, Locke, American Sniper

2013
Personal faves: Before Midnight, Frances Ha, 56 Up, The Dirties, Gravity, The Spectacular Now, The World’s End, Short Term 12, Fruitvale Station, The Way, Way Back, Mud, The Kings of Summer
Definite faves: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Much Ado About Nothing, Don Jon, Enough Said, Stories We Tell, Inside Llewyn Davis, In a World…, Her, This is the End, Black Rock, Last Summer
Very close to being faves: Frozen, Warm Bodies, The Conjuring
Need to see again: When I Walk, Prisoners, Nebraska, Come Morning, Saving Mr. Banks, Captain Phillips, C.O.G., All is Lost, Man of Tai Chi

2012
Personal faves: Ruby Sparks, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Safety Not Guaranteed, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Sleepwalk With Me
Definite faves: Argo, Chronicle, The Secret World of Arrietty, Sinister, ParaNorman, The Impossible, Jeff Who Lives at Home, Moonrise Kingdom, Bernie, The Hunger Games, The Cabin in the Woods, Hitchcock, Smashed, The Avengers, Robot & Frank, The Amazing Spider-Man
Very close to being faves: V/H/S, Dredd, Liberal Arts, Your Sister’s Sister, Les Miserables, The Innkeepers
Need to see again: Life of Pi, Flight, Lincoln, Skyfall, West of Memphis, Django Unchained, The Master, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty, End of Watch

2011
Personal faves: 50/50, Take Shelter, Attack the Block
Definite faves: Hugo, The Artist, Cedar Rapids, Bridesmaids, Beginners, Arthur Christmas, The Descendants, Friends With Benefits, Drive, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Source Code, Super 8
Very close to being faves: Win Win, A Better Life, Insidious, The Myth of the American Sleepover, Terri, Fright Night, Young Adult, Scream 4, HappyThankYouMorePlease, Tucker and Dale vs. Evil, 30 Minutes or Less
Need to see again: Kung Fu Panda 2, X-Men: First Class, The Tree of Life, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Submarine, The Beaver, Another Earth, Moneyball, Martha Marcy May Marlene

2010
Personal faves: The Social Network, Toy Story 3, 127 Hours, Let Me In, True Grit, Cyrus
Definite faves: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, The Kids are All Right, Buried, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, Tangled
Very close to being faves: Winter’s Bone, How to Train Your Dragon, Tiny Furniture, Rabbit Hole, Please Give, Flipped, Get Him to the Greek, Greenberg, The Book of Eli
Need to see again: The King’s Speech, Inception

2009
Personal faves: War Eagle, Arkansas, Up, Adventureland, Inglourious Basterds
Definite faves: (500) Days of Summer, Me and Orson Welles, Funny People, I Love You, Man, Up in the Air, Sugar, Jennifer’s Body, The House of the Devil, Coraline, Humpday
Very close to being faves: Bandslam, The Hangover, Star Trek, The Loved Ones, Paranormal Activity, Paper Heart
Need to see again: Where the Wild Things Are, Moon, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Goodbye Solo, The Hurt Locker, An Education, A Serious Man, District 9, Sunshine Cleaning

2008
Personal faves: The Dark Knight, Shotgun Stories, Let the Right One In, Iron Man, Kung Fu Panda, Baghead
Definite faves: Tropic Thunder, Pineapple Express, Frost/Nixon, Cloverfield, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, The Visitor, The Rocker, Henry Poole is Here, Milk, City of Ember, The Spiderwick Chronicles
Very close to being faves: Snow Angels, Be Kind Rewind, American Teen, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Marley & Me, The Wackness, The Forbidden Kingdom, Definitely Maybe, Zack and Miri Make a Porno
Need to see again: Wall-E, Slumdog Millionaire, Lake Mungo, Man on Wire, Trouble the Water, Gran Torino, In Bruges, Happy-Go-Lucky, Frozen River, Burn After Reading

2007
Personal faves: No Country for Old Men, Hot Fuzz, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Hot Rod, Superbad, Juno
Definite faves: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Once, Ratatouille, The Simpsons Movie, I am Legend, Margot at the Wedding, Alpha Dog, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Knocked Up, Disturbia, Into the Wild, Bridge to Terabithia, 1408, The Savages, The Namesake, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, Surf’s Up, Waitress
Very close to being faves: Lars and the Real Girl, Fracture, Bee Movie
Need to see again: There Will Be Blood, Paris Je T’Aime, Zodiac, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Persepolis, Eastern Promises, The Lookout, Gone Baby Gone, Rec, Blades of Glory

2006
Personal faves: United 93, Thank You For Smoking, Little Miss Sunshine, Stranger Than Fiction, Monster House, Half Nelson
Definite faves: Brick, Pan’s Labyrinth, The Puffy Chair, The Departed, Casino Royale, Letters from Iwo Jima, Clerks II
Very close to being faves: Hard Candy, This Film is Not Yet Rated, The Descent, Final Destination 3, Slither, Keeping Up With the Steins, Rocky Balboa, The Nativity Story
Need to see again: Children of Men, The Prestige, 12 and Holding, Joyeux Noel, Borat, Come Early Morning, Friends With Money

2005
Personal faves: Good Night and Good Luck, Brokeback Mountain, War of the Worlds, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Serenity
Definite faves: Munich, King Kong, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Red Eye, Zathura, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Castle in the Sky, Sin City, The Chronicles of Narnia, A History of Violence, Capote, The Exorcism of Emily Rose
Very close to being faves: Batman Begins, The Squid and the Whale, Hustle & Flow, Stay, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Sky High
Need to see again: Broken Flowers, Millions, Match Point, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Proof, Street Fight, Junebug, Me and You and Everyone We Know

2004
Personal faves: Before Sunset, Napoleon Dynamite, Shaun of the Dead, Collateral, Super Size Me, Mean Creek, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
Definite faves: Shrek 2, The Incredibles, Saw, Spider-Man 2, Speak, Baadasssss!, Sideways, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, Overnight, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Dodgeball
Very close to being faves: Touching the Void, Undertow, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, Mean Girls, The Village, The Polar Express, Spanglish, Open Water, Going to the Mat
Need to see again: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Million Dollar Baby, Closer

2003
Personal faves: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Holes, School of Rock, Shattered Glass
Definite faves: American Splendor, Lost in Translation, Freaky Friday, The Station Agent, Pieces of April, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Bruce Almighty, Bad Santa, Kill Bill Vol. 1
Very close to being faves: Identity, Elephant, Raising Victor Vargas, Better Luck Tomorrow, Peter Pan, Hulk, Elf, Spellbound, The Battle of Shaker Heights
Need to see again: Finding Nemo, Capturing the Friedmans, Monster, Mystic River, Whale Rider, All the Real Girls, 28 Days Later, Manic

2002
Personal faves: Signs, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Red Dragon, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, Catch Me if You Can
Definite faves: Spirited Away, 25th Hour, Minority Report, The Ring, Frailty, About a Boy, Punch-Drunk Love, Kissing Jessica Stein
Very close to being faves: 8 Mile, Tuck Everlasting, The Good Girl, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Big Fat Liar, Spider-Man, Treasure Planet, Gerry
Need to see again: Insomnia, Antwone Fisher, Road to Perdition, Lilo and Stitch

2001
Personal faves: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Accountant
Definite faves: Memento, Shrek, Donnie Darko, The Royal Tenenbaums, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Joy Ride
Very close to being faves: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Zoolander, Monsters Inc., Tape, Spy Kids
Need to see again: A Beautiful Mind, The Devil’s Backbone, Ghost World, Ginger Snaps

2000
Personal faves: Cast Away, Unbreakable
Definite faves: Almost Famous, Finding Forrester, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, High Fidelity
Very close to being faves: The Virgin Suicides, American Psycho, George Washington, You Can Count on Me, Shadow of the Vampire, O Brother Where Art Thou?, Disney’s The Kid, The Emperor’s New Groove
Need to see again: Billy Elliot, Requiem for a Dream, Chuck & Buck, Titus, Best in Show

1999
Personal faves: The Sixth Sense, Toy Story 2, The Iron Giant, Magnolia, Phantom Town, October Sky
Definite faves: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Dogma, Election, The Blair Witch Project, The Straight Story, Rushmore, American Movie, Don’t Look Under the Bed, Bowfinger, Galaxy Quest, Smart House
Very close to being faves: Man on the Moon, Stir of Echoes, The Mummy, Tarzan
Need to see again: Boys Don’t Cry, Fight Club, The Hurricane, Eyes Wide Shut, The Matrix, Princess Mononoke, Run Lola Run, The Green Mile, The Minus Man, Office Space

1998
Personal faves: Pleasantville, The Prince of Egypt, The Mighty
Definite faves: A Simple Plan, The Big Lebowski, The Borrowers, Mulan, The Truman Show, Smoke Signals, Dark City
Very close to being faves: Ever After, Kiki’s Delivery Service, American History X, Apt Pupil, Antz, A Bug’s Life
Need to see again: Saving Private Ryan, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, The Mask of Zorro, Rounders, The Horse Whisperer, Blade

1997
Personal faves: Titanic
Definite faves: Good Will Hunting, George of the Jungle, Scream 2, My Teacher Ate My Homework, The Daytrippers, Paradise Road, Shiloh, My Best Friend’s Wedding
Very close to being faves: Chasing Amy, As Good As it Gets, Con Air
Need to see again: Boogie Nights, In & Out, The Ice Storm, Amistad, Eve’s Bayou, Contact, The Sweet Hereafter, Waiting for Guffman, L.A. Confidential, The Game, Jackie Brown, Men in Black, Ulee’s Gold

1996
Personal faves: Fargo, Scream, Cannibal! The Musical
Definite faves: Hamlet, Jerry Maguire, Sling Blade, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Walking and Talking, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Paper Brigade, Bottle Rocket, Happy Gilmore
Very close to being faves: Trainspotting, Courage Under Fire, Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie, James and the Giant Peach
Need to see again: Flirting with Disaster, Bound, Lone Star, Freeway, The Truth About Cats and Dogs

1995
Personal faves: Before Sunrise, Toy Story, The Indian in the Cupboard, Living in Oblivion, Heavyweights
Definite faves: Se7en, The Celluloid Closet, Jumanji, Tall Tale
Very close to being faves: The Brothers McMullen, A Little Princess, Die Hard With a Vengeance, Pocahontas
Need to see again: The Usual Suspects, Crumb, Apollo 13, Strange Days, Dead Man Walking, The Secret of Roan Inish, Dolores Claiborne, Friday

1994
Personal faves: The Lion King, Hoop Dreams, Pulp Fiction, Ed Wood, The Client, Red
Definite faves: The Shawshank Redemption, Clerks, Speed, Forrest Gump, Fresh, Blue, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
Very close to being faves: Little Women, Little Big League, White, The Mask, Dumb and Dumber
Need to see again: Four Weddings and a Funeral, Heavenly Creatures, Bullets Over Broadway

1993
Personal faves: Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Matinee, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, The Sandlot
Definite faves: Dazed and Confused, Groundhog Day, Demolition Man, Searching for Bobby Fischer, Much Ado About Nothing, King of the Hill, American Heart, Free Willy, Last Action Hero, El Mariachi, Rudy, Philadelphia, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Cool Runnings, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Adventures of Huck Finn
Very close to being faves: Shadowlands, Mrs. Doubtfire, Fearless, Rookie of the Year
Need to see again: Grave of the Fireflies, Ruby in Paradise, A Bronx Tale, Gettysburg, Dave, The Fugitive, What’s Love Got to Do With It, The Joy Luck Club, Tombstone, The Secret Garden

1992
Personal faves: Wayne’s World, Aladdin
Definite faves: Reservoir Dogs, Scent of a Woman, A Few Good Men, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, My Cousin Vinny, Prelude to a Kiss
Very close to being faves: Under Siege, School Ties, Batman Returns, Where the Day Takes You, Candyman
Need to see again: White Men Can’t Jump, The Waterdance, The Player, One False Move, The Crying Game, Glengarry Glen Ross, A Midnight Clear, A League of Their Own

1991
Personal faves: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Beauty and the Beast, The Silence of the Lambs
Definite faves: Dead Again, The People Under the Stairs, Boyz ‘N the Hood, Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse, Thelma and Louise, Barton Fink, City Slickers, The Rocketeer
Very close to being faves: Slacker, White Fang, Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey, Point Break, Doc Hollywood, My Girl
Need to see again: Defending Your Life, The Man in the Moon, Madonna: Truth or Dare, Grand Canyon, The Fisher King

1990
Personal faves: Goodfellas, Misery, Home Alone
Definite faves: Tremors, Back to the Future Part III, A Cry in the Wild
Very close to being faves: Cinema Paradiso, Pump Up the Volume, Die Hard 2, The Witches
Need to see again: Arachnophobia, Darkman, Dances With Wolves, Awakenings, The Exorcist III, Avalon, The Rescuers Down Under

1989
Personal faves: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Say Anything, Do the Right Thing, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, Batman, The War of the Roses, Field of Dreams
Definite faves: Lethal Weapon 2, Drugstore Cowboy, When Harry Met Sally…, Back to the Future Part II, Dead Poets Society, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Very close to being faves: My Left Foot, In Country, Roger & Me, Casualties of War, Born on the Fourth of July, The Little Mermaid, Chances Are
Need to see again: Glory, The Abyss

1988
Personal faves: Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Big, Die Hard, Beetlejuice, Bull Durham
Definite faves: Rain Man, Dear America: Letters Home From Vietnam, A Fish Called Wanda, Permanent Record, The Last Temptation of Christ, Vice Versa, Running on Empty, The Thin Blue Line, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years, Midnight Run, They Live
Very close to being faves: Mystic Pizza, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, The Blob, Child’s Play
Need to see again: Working Girl, Mississippi Burning, Dangerous Liaisons, Boyfriends and Girlfriends, The Accidental Tourist, Colors, Clean and Sober, She’s Having a Baby

1987
Personal faves: Planes, Trains & Automobiles, The Monster Squad, The Princess Bride, Full Metal Jacket, Near Dark, The Stepfather, The Lost Boys, Some Kind of Wonderful
Definite faves: Lethal Weapon, Good Morning, Vietnam, River’s Edge, Broadcast News, RoboCop, Empire of the Sun, Raising Arizona, Predator, Innerspace, The Gate, The Untouchables
Very close to being faves: Moonstruck, The Hidden, Evil Dead II, Fatal Attraction, No Way Out, Spaceballs, Less Than Zero, A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Big Shots
Need to see again: Withnail & I, Jean de Florette, Manon of the Spring, Swimming to Cambodia, House of Games, The Big Easy, Roxanne, Light of Day

1986
Personal faves: Stand by Me, Lucas, Blue Velvet, At Close Range, Platoon, Aliens, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Definite faves: The Great Mouse Detective, Ruthless People, Hoosiers, Smooth Talk, Manhunter, The Hitcher, Children of a Lesser God, The Fly, Night of the Creeps, Flight of the Navigator, The Manhattan Project, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Very close to being faves: Little Shop of Horrors, Peggy Sue Got Married, Something Wild, Big Trouble in Little China, F/X, Crossroads, The Boy Who Could Fly
Need to see again: True Stories, Down by Law, Hannah and Her Sisters, Sid and Nancy, A Room With a View, Desert Bloom, Jo Jo Dancer: Your Life is Calling

1985
Personal faves: Back to the Future, The Goonies, 28 Up, Runaway Train, Witness, Real Genius, The Breakfast Club, Mask, Streetwise, Explorers, Young Sherlock Holmes
Definite faves: The Sure Thing, Blood Simple, The Purple Rose of Cairo, D.A.R.Y.L., Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Sylvester
Very close to being faves: Vision Quest, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, Code of Silence, The Journey of Natty Gann
Need to see again: Brazil, Lost in America, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, My Life as a Dog, The Color Purple, After Hours

1984
Personal faves: Amadeus, Ghostbusters, The Karate Kid, Stop Making Sense, Gremlins, The Terminator, This is Spinal Tap, Starman
Definite faves: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Firstborn, All of Me, The Neverending Story, The Flamingo Kid, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Natural, Stranger Than Paradise, Love Letters
Very close to being faves: Beverly Hills Cop, Purple Rain, Romancing the Stone, That Sinking Feeling
Need to see again: Once Upon a Time in America, Paris, Texas, The Killing Fields, Comfort and Joy, Repo Man, The Brother From Another Planet, Moscow on the Hudson, The Stone Boy

1983
Personal faves: A Christmas Story, The Outsiders, Risky Business, Christine
Definite faves: Bad Boys, WarGames, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Tender Mercies, The Big Chill, Never Cry Wolf
Very close to being faves: Terms of Endearment, Return of the Jedi, The Dead Zone, Sleepaway Camp
Need to see again: The Right Stuff, El Norte, Local Hero, Silkwood, Testament, The King of Comedy

1982
Personal faves: Tex, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Definite faves: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, My Favorite Year, The Secret of NIMH, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Tootsie, The Thing, Gregory’s Girl
Very close to being faves: Personal Best, First Blood, Creepshow, Poltergeist
Need to see again: Blade Runner, An Officer and a Gentleman

1981
Personal faves: Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond, The Great Muppet Caper
Definite faves: An American Werewolf in London, Gates of Heaven
Very close to being faves: My Dinner with Andre, Time Bandits, Superman II, Melvin and Howard, Stripes, Blow Out, The Evil Dead
Need to see again: Continental Divide, Southern Comfort, Escape from New York

1980
Personal faves: The Empire Strikes Back, The Shining
Definite faves: Raging Bull, The Blues Brothers, Ordinary People, Fame, My Bodyguard
Very close to being faves: Caddyshack, Airplane!, Nine to Five
Need to see again: Coal Miner’s Daughter, Used Cars

1979
Personal faves: Alien, The Bugs Bunny/Roadrunner Movie, Breaking Away, Rocky II, The Muppet Movie
Definite faves: Salem’s Lot, Phantasm, Over the Edge, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, Kramer vs. Kramer
Very close to being faves: The Black Stallion, 1941, Dawn of the Dead, The Double McGuffin, Time After Time
Need to see again: Being There, The China Syndrome, The Onion Field

1978
Personal faves: Halloween, Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Definite faves: Coming Home, A Hero Ain’t Nothin’ But a Sandwich, The Buddy Holly Story
Very close to being faves: Superman, Days of Heaven, Animal House, Heaven Can Wait, I Wanna Hold Your Hand
Need to see again: Girlfriends, An Unmarried Woman, Magic, Interiors

1977
Personal faves: Star Wars, 21 Up
Definite faves: Annie Hall, Saturday Night Fever, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Very close to being faves: Close Encounters of the Third Kind, One on One, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden, Oh, God!, Smokey and the Bandit
Need to see again: Slap Shot

1976
Personal faves: Rocky, Taxi Driver, The Bad News Bears
Definite faves: Bugsy Malone, Swept Away
Very close to being faves: Carrie, Freaky Friday
Need to see again: All the President’s Men, Network, Marathon Man

1975
Personal faves: Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Jaws
Definite faves: Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
Very close to being faves: Escape to Witch Mountain
Need to see again: Nashville, Dog Day Afternoon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Shampoo

1974
Definite faves: The Godfather Part II, The Conversation, Black Christmas, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Need to see again: Young Frankenstein, Chinatown, Blazing Saddles, The Longest Yard, The Towering Inferno, The Sugarland Express

1973
Personal faves: Day for Night, The Last Detail
Definite faves: The Exorcist, Badlands, Paper Moon, Mean Streets
Very close to being faves: American Graffiti
Need to see again: The Paper Chase, Enter the Dragon

1972
Personal faves: The Godfather, Sounder
Definite faves: Deliverance, What’s Up Doc?
Very close to being faves: The Poseidon Adventure
Need to see again: The Heartbreak Kid

1971
Personal faves: Bedknobs and Broomsticks
Definite faves: A Clockwork Orange, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Last Picture Show, Harold and Maude, Play Misty For Me
Very close to being faves: Duel, Summer of ’42
Need to see again: Straw Dogs, The French Connection, A New Leaf, Dirty Harry

1969
Personal faves: True Grit
Need to see again: The Wild Bunch, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice

1968
Personal faves: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Definite faves: Rosemary’s Baby, Planet of the Apes
Very close to being faves: Night of the Living Dead
Need to see again: Targets

1967
Definite faves: Bonnie and Clyde, Wait Until Dark
Very close to being faves: The Graduate
Need to see again: The Incident, In the Heat of the Night

1965
Definite faves: That Darn Cat!
Need to see again: The Great Race, The Sound of Music

1964
Personal faves: Mary Poppins, Dr. Strangelove
Definite faves: A Hard Day’s Night

1963
Personal faves: The Haunting
Definite faves: The Sword in the Stone, The Birds, From Russia With Love, Lord of the Flies

1962
Personal faves: To Kill a Mockingbird

1960
Personal faves: Psycho
Definite faves: The Apartment, Pollyanna, Swiss Family Robinson

1959
Personal faves: The 400 Blows, Darby O’Gill and the Little People

1957
Personal faves: 12 Angry Men, Old Yeller
Definite faves: The Incredible Shrinking Man
Very close to being faves: Johnny Tremain

1954
Personal faves: Rear Window
Definite faves: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, On the Waterfront

1951
Definite faves: Strangers on a Train

1950
Personal faves: Rashomon, Sunset Boulevard

1946
Personal faves: It’s a Wonderful Life

1942
Definite faves: Casablanca

1941
Definite faves: Citizen Kane

1940
Personal faves: Fantasia
Definite faves: Pinocchio, The Great Dictator
Need to see again: The Shop Around the Corner

1939
Personal faves: The Wizard of Oz

1931
Personal faves: City Lights

1922
Definite faves: Nosferatu, The Kid

Whew! That took a lot out of me–I hope I don’t have to do it again for a long time. But there you have it: the movies I love, even more movies I love, movies that still have a place in my heart, and movies that I…well, need to see again.