Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

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CLT Recommends Vol. 1: The Thing

June 16, 2011

Way, way, way back in the day (May 26, 2010 to be exact), I kicked off a self-congratulatory snarkfest entitled “The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films.” Having typed that mouthful would have seemed to have been enough, but I was challenged (on my home turf!) by FJ/RXJ to tell you about some of the movies I actually like. (This may also become a catch-all for music, games, pop culture detritus, entities, books, magazines, short-form videos, img macros, that thing I saw on Facebook, etc. Anything that I can recommend with maximum wordiness will be typed the hell up and shot into the ‘tubes. You’ve been warned…)

It’s an interesting idea. As another occasional writer (but now more occasionally a photographer), RXJ is well aware of the fact that it’s much easier to tear something down than it is to build something up. Negative reviews flow like tainted water. Good reviews tend to build mountains out of molehills made entirely of used-up superlatives. So… goddammit. Here we go.

As we head into this spectacular failure entitled “The Capitalist Lion Tamer Guide to Things Wot I Like Vol. 1” (or whatever), keep in mind whose fault this is. And then go to his blog, ooh and ah over his spectacular pictures and then comment on them… I suppose. But be sure and give him “the look” while you’re there, just in case this goes down as badly as I’m already promising it will.

(Note: If you were expecting me to kick this off with some high class entertainment like a Bertolucci flick, well, quite obviously, I am not. If you’re thinking I’ll be getting to that sort of thing later, prepare to be disappointed! I’m [apparently] not That Guy.

Not that I’m claiming some sort of Pabst Blue Ribbon-esque street cred by pounding out overly-long tributes to pulp cinema, but rather that I find I like the things I like for no real reason, which will be explained via a longish list of reasons and very frequent digressions. Volume 1 will be no exception [mostly due to it being Volume 1, a.k.a. “The Standard Bearer”.])

(Note II: This thing about The Thing is exceedingly long. [4,400+ words.] Wear something comfortable.]

THE THING

John Carpenter’s 1982 film is very loosely based on 1951’s The Thing from Another World, starring James Arness (most famously, Man with Hat on the long-running Gunsmoke) as some sort of sentient space carrot.  The original has its fans, most of whom are presumably dead or running out their remaining years in managed care. Some may even claim the original is superior, but if that were truly true, I wouldn’t be writing this then, would I? There’s only one correct opinion as far as I’m concerned, and as long as I’m doing all the typing, that would be mine.

Quick summary: a crew of scientists uncover a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of the people (among other things) it’s taken over. Shot way the hell up north in British Columbia (see below for how far the hell up north) and on 40-degree sound-stages in Los Angeles. Looks, feels and sounds fucking cold. Appropriately disgusting with groundbreaking special effects. Appropriately violent and turbocharged with atmosphere. The atmosphere is kill. Oppressive paranoia hangs all over the place. Kurt Russell sports some impressive facial hair. Dogs are involved. Way too involved.

It’s a lot like 1979’s Alien, being that it also crafts an incredibly dark story using a small, tightly knit cast, none of whom look like movie star cliches, but rather like people that wandered into the auditions while trying to find directions to the nearest truck stop or liquor store (and still nailed it!).

Way the hell up there.

UNINTENTIONAL DIGRESSION

(This means I’ll probably have to run through Alien as well. Good stuff, with some surprising ultraviolence and killer special effects. Plus, H.R. Giger got to bring his weird-ass, phallus-obsessed art to the mainstream, resulting in a spectacularly evil-looking alien with a psychosexually charged penis-dentata-meets-acid-blood structure.

I’m sure I’m reading way too much into it, but there’s a definite weirded-out-by-pregnancy subtext present, what with the facehugger’s ability to lay eggs… in your fucking mouth. Eggs that mature and hatch. And then burst right the fuck out of your chest with a maximum amount of pain and blood and a minimum of forewarning or painful contractions. It’s familiar ground, one trodden on by David Cronenberg (The Fly) and David Lynch (Eraserhead). Something about the undeniable alien-ness of a being growing inside someone’s body, completely hidden. Probably the most common form of “body horror.” The exit of said being in The Thing is rather messy as well.)

Back to The Thing

Nothing is more authentic than a beardsicle.

KEY #1: AUTHENTICITY

Not many people could do what Carpenter did with this one, including refrigerate the hell out of his cast for an authentically cold feel.

Nothing feels as cold as The Thing does. The key is the breath. That’s real condensation there. Seeing your breath is real. They do it now with digital effects and you can tell. It looks no more real than the synchronized, equally-sized breaths of Madden football players in a snow game. (Little known fact: down lineman breathe in sync.) You can see the fakeness and feel the warmth of a 72-degree actor pretending to be cold and completely failing as an almost-but-not-quite puff of white “breath” appears somewhere near their face. More actors need to be pushed to discomfort. As Neil Simon (or possibly Spencer Tracy) once said: “The physical labor actors have to do wouldn’t tax an embryo.”

They don’t fake it in The Thing. That’s Key #1. (Which should probably have been labeled “KEY #1” up above this for clarity. No matter. We’ll fix it in post. [Another film term. It means “this continuity error will be mocked mercilessly and enshrined forever at IMDB.”])(Oh, but look: I fixed it anyway. Good for me and my foresighted hindsight.)

KEY #2: PARANOIA

Another reason this film works so well is the steady ramping up of fear, distrust and paranoia. Everyone’s possibly infected. This element is deployed mercilessly. Everyone is always yelling at everyone else and threatening each other with severe violencings. Guns are waved around a lot. So is a flame thrower. Some knives get waved about threateningly. This description would seem to make The Thing just another guys-pointing-guns-at-each-other-and-getting-shouty flick*, but it never devolves into anything that played out.

In fact, it heads completely down a separate path with the “blood test” scene, in which half the principals are tied up and the other half are pointing guns and flamethrowers at each other, even though nobody really knows who’s “infected” and who’s “clean.” If you haven’t watched the flick yet, the scene is reminiscent of getting an STD screening, only the doctors are ready to kill you if you ring up a positive and the rest of the patients are either tied up or waving around a (probably unlicensed) handgun and will also kill you if you show the slightest sign of toilet seat herpes. Plus, it’s really cold outside and your chances of living out the rest of your life as a happy and productive horseback rider are swiftly heading past “slim” towards “none” faster than the atmosphere inside the paranoid clinic or the harsh British Columbian wintry mix (not including wind chill) outside.  So: tense.

*Also known as “Fuck You! No, Fuck You!” flicks.

There's a journalism joke in here somewhere.

Key #3: KURT RUSSELL

I’m not one of Russell’s acolytes* but he does completely own this role. He is exactly the sort of guy who would ask for a transfer to the Antarctic simply because above-zero temperatures no longer interest him. The extensive bearding helps, at times taking over a scene entirely. He’s a low-level badass because the situation only calls for low levels of badassery. In manufacturing terms, he’d be more concerned with throughput than process. Point A to B. What’s the most direct route? Even (or especially) if the direct route has resistance.

In fact, it’s probably better if there is resistance. (No, I think you will use that centrifuge!) Just a no-bullshit, get-things-done attitude that grates on the other team members, but they realize the value he adds and so they don’t say much about it, especially if he’s been drinking. I would imagine this sort of kicking-ass-taking-names probably plays hell with the scientific method. (Screw your control groups and peer review bullshit! We don’t have the time!)

*EXTENDED FAUX-FOOTNOTE DIGRESSION

I have dealt with Russell’s acolytes, most of whom champion Big Trouble in Little China as the zenith of filmmaking. I’ve watched parts of it, but I’m not seeing it. This isn’t meant to disparage Russell’s faithful, a few of whom are good friends and whose taste is generally spot on otherwise. Maybe I’m missing something. Feel free to champion BTiLC in the comment threads. I’m always open to another viewpoint. (“Open” and “willing to ignore.” It’s as dichotomous as it is deeply hypocritical. I would apologize for this, but surely you’ve dealt with bloggers before. )

And not “appreciating” BtiLC is by no means a knock against Russell. I enjoyed his work in Tombstone even though he was far from the best thing in it. There were a few scenes of his that would have been better off being replaced with tasteful insert shots of Sam Elliott’s glorious “I-have-no-mouth-and-I-must-drawl” mustache. (Namely: any time he and his wife “interact.” And I don’t mean “having sex” like I normally do when I say “interact.” I mean anytime they converse or make eye contact or say “laudanum.”)

I can guarantee you that no one has made fun of that mustache and lived to tell about it.

[This would also include any scene featuring Bill Paxton front-and-center. Paxton spends nearly the entire running time looking like he’s five minutes away from getting his ass kicked. It’s the pained expression of a schoolkid willing the clock backwards, knowing that as soon as the bell rings, he’s going to get slaughtered by the bully on the playground.]

Paxton's fav emoticon is /:{ It means "Please stop yelling."

I also enjoyed Russell in Death Proof, where he was easily the best thing about it (other than the soundtrack and the decapitation-via-tire car wreck). Any time he was onscreen meant less time given over to girls talking like Quentin Tarantino imagines girls would talk if they were trying to sound like guys. (Especially guys who are former video store clerks.) Also a bonus: no gratuitous shots of Russell’s naked feet.

He was also pretty excellent in Used Cars, another movie I could have sworn Harry Dean Stanton** appeared in.

** Usually the best part of anything, especially when used sparingly, as in Twin Peaks:Fire Walk with Me, in which he refers to a dead woman’s trailer as being “more popular than uncle’s day at a whorehouse.” He delivers this line to a perfectly coiffed Chris Isaak (yes, that one) in the rattiest bathrobe ever attributed to Hollywood costume department.

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume Whatever

June 7, 2011

Take that, world. Here it is: the final installment of a series I tried to will into non-existence via misnumbering and inattentiveness. But it proved too strong to be defeated by inactivity and is now proudly counting itself among the “published.” Enjoy?

Hepburn signals her lower-class upbringing with a typically shite umbrella.

91. My Fair Lady (1964)
Rex Reed and Audrey Hepburn star in this classic musical which illustrates the old adage (often through song) that with the proper amount of training, any woman can be transformed into a useful (and non-embarrassing) human being, even a woman sporting a horrific Cockney accent and a whorish mouth.

While many women today may find this depiction condescending at best, its defenders like to point out that My Fair Lady was made back in the pre-bra burning mid-60s when it was still “cool” to portray women as out of their depth operating anything more complicated than a roast or a lawn jockey. They’ll also point out that it’s a “love story” which apparently excuses all of its offenses, as does the inclusion of a “shitload of singing.”

"A devastatingly hilarious caption."

92. A Place in the Sun (1951)
Cancun.

Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine run from OSHA inspectors after violating the "Lock-Out/Tag-Out" policy.

93. The Apartment (1960)
Beating Mad Men to the punch by nearly a half-century, Billy Wilder’s comedy depicts the misadventures of a pair of ad execs who decide use a colleague’s apartment as a fuck pad. Wackiness ensues, heavily tinged with soul-searching drama. (So much so in fact, that by the second reel you’ll find yourself yelling at the screen, “Check the nightstand! I’m sure I saw you put your soul in there! You set it right next to your spare watch!”)

Unfortunately, the soul-searching continues for much of the running time, leading to conflict and threats of changing the locks. By the end they’ve found their watches and not much else, forcing them to forge on as soulless ad execs, a condition that helps them “fit in” better at the office.

From left to right: Sweary Van Browington, Raspy McFBomb and Happy "Kill Crazy" Headpuncher.

94. GoodFellas (1990)
Martin Scorsese heads into unfamiliar territory with this period gangster flick, featuring the acting talent of Ray Liotta’s furrowed brow and the highest number of F-bombs to ever appear in a mainstream motion picture. When not splattering the walls and car trunks with blood, Liotta’s gangster character is splattering your inner ear with endless variations of “fuck.” The rest of the cast joins in, raising the ratio of fucks-to-normal-words to an all-time high of 77-to-1, shattering the 58:1 ratio set by Nash Pluto. (Statisticians point out that a majority of the “fucks” were uttered by audience members who wished to know “What the fuck is this bullshit?” and “Where the fuck can I get a refund?” Also recorded: “The fuck?”, “Is this supposed to be a fucking comedy?” and “Six bucks for a fucking soda?”)

Original poster photo rejected by Quentin Tarantino as being "too shoesy."

95. Pulp Fiction (1994)
Released in conjunction with my 20th birthday (which would make me old enough to be someone’s dad — twice), Pulp Fiction was the first of two seminal pop culture touchstones to share in the unbridled joy that is the day of my birth. (The other is Fatboy Slim’s second album, You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby.)

Quentin Tarantino’s hotly anticipated followup to Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction is a pop culture repository, featuring knowing winks to such kitsch items as Modesty Blaise and Clutch Cargo. It was also a comeback vehicle for John Travolta, who briefly started reading script summaries and showing some selectivity before throwing caution to the wind and cranking out film after goodwill-pulverizing film.

On the other hand, he and Tarantino did manage to resuscitate a moribund heroin market with their tastefully shot ode to shooting up. Just remember, kids: always the veins, never the nose.

Reviewers praised John Wayne's "restrained perspiration."

96. The Searchers (1956)
Dark proto-noir-western featuring a relatively understated John Wayne as a hat-wearing cow person hot on the trail of a gang of kidnappers. Famous for its signature shot of Wayne standing emotively in an empty doorway, as well as for its willingness to turn genre expectations on their collective ear. Explores themes of redemption, often through the use of iconic doorway shots, paving the way for a new wave of nihilist Westerns directed by many Western nihilists.

Nothing brings up "baby" faster than a chain smoking father figure and another non-chain smoking father figure.

97. Bringing Up Baby (1938)
Another Depression-era screwball comedy centering on a couple’s misadventures while raising a jaguar (the titular “Baby”). Hijinks (often of the “screwball” variety) ensue, until the final reel when the “Baby” turns on its owners, slaughtering one and maiming the other before going on a kill-crazy rampage. This rampage comes to a halt thanks to a “pushed to the edge” Charles Bronson, who seems to find the “violent revenge” business agreeable and starts up a few “kill-crazy” rampages of his own. The nadir of ’70s dystopian filmmaking with a 30+ year headstart.

Viewers found themselves confused during long scenes of Clint Eastwood staring at his own back.

98. Unforgiven (1992)
Yet another depressing deconstructionist Western, only two spaces removed from the last one, as AFI continues their downhill coast to #100, grabbing names they’ve heard of and shoving them onto the list.

Unforgiven takes place in the seldom-discussed part of the West where it’s always night and it’s always raining. As is the case with most “avenging a hooker’s disfiguration” films, Unforgiven is chock full of iconic shots of a very tired and iconic Clint Eastwood standing in various iconic doorways (and rainstorms).

Hepburn and Tracy brace themselves for the inevitable culture clash (accomplished mainly by staying white and square).

99. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967)
Longtime closeted couple Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn star as the uptight, mildly racist parents of a college student who insists on shaking up the status quo by bringing home her new, non-white boyfriend, Mr. Tibbs. A majority of the running time is given over to uptight discussions of the impending blackness, broken up with a second storyline where Poitier’s character deals with even more uptightness at the hands of the local law enforcement he was sent to help.

An IMPORTANT FILM, delivering the message that black people are no different than white people, except they’re more “black” and prone to causing uptightness in insular whites like Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn and Rod Steiger. Look for a young Rob Reiner as adorable loser, Meathead.

Cagney plays against type as some sort of rouge-sporting, hat-wearing showgirl.

100. Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
Released during the height of American patriotism, Yankee Doodle Dandy sings and dances its way into the final spot on AFI’s list, presumably pushing John Wayne’s The Green Berets to 101. Filled with cheerfully positive tunes such as “Buy War Bonds,” “Save Your Nylons for the Boys Overseas,” “Buy More War Bonds,” and “Necessity is the Mother of Temporarily Useful Female Employees.”

Very much a product of its time as evidenced by its disastrous re-release during the height of the Vietnam War, tanking miserably at the box office despite the hasty insertion of the timely song-and-dance numbers “Hell No, We Won’t Go!” and “Icn Bin Ein Newly-Minted Canadian, Motherfuckers!”

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: 71-80

April 22, 2011

Previous randomly-numbered editions here:
The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films Archive

No. Your other "right."

71. Forrest Gump (1994)
Idiots make the best people. Exceedingly long.

Modern scientists are still perplexed at to how the ancient Romans managed to suspend the hyphen in mid-air.

72. Ben-Hur (1959)
Skirt-and-sandle Charlton Heston vehicle (a chariot, more precisely) recounting the story of an enslaved Jew who rises to prominence thanks to a chance run-in with a pre-crucifixion Jesus Christ.

His life inexorably altered, Judah Ben-Hur goes on to have the ever-loving shit whipped out of him for most of the running time, all the while searching for answers to questions like, “What have I done to deserve this?” and “How come I’m enslaved while other Jews like, say, Jesus are walking around all free and being randomly compassionate?”

While the first question would be answered (well, “echoed” actually) 20+ years later by Neil Tennant, the second would remain unanswered and often revised as “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Still, the chariot race is pretty kickass and the film itself is refreshingly free of NRA bumper stickers. Exceedingly long.

Forlorn with Desire... and Motion Sickness.

73. Wuthering Heights (1939)
I have no idea. Something about subletting a rent-controlled apartment? Wackiness/trenchant drama presumably ensues. Shot in black and white, hence its appearance on this list. Often remembered as “If you only see one movie this year, it will probably be Gone With the Wind.”

Charlie Chaplin attempts to cook off his patented "hobo stank."

74. The Gold Rush (1925)
A lighthearted romp through the pre-Great Depression, helmed by (and starring) Charlie Chaplin, whose physical comedic prowess was only equalled by his notorious womanizing* and Hitlerriffic ‘stache.

Full of Chaplin-esque touches, including hats, canes, precocious children and splay-footed walking. Shot in evocative black and white, a bold directorial decision based on available film stock.

*Hence the nickname “The Little Tramp.”

Costner reportedly felt the final poster still needed about "20% more Costner."

75. Dances with Wolves (1990)
Kevin Costner, in the first of many vanity projects, explores the “noble savage” myth over the course of six or seven hours and finds it to be to his liking. Includes all sorts of Oscar bait, including, but not limited to:

  • Sweeping vistas
  • Period costumes
  • Native people
  • Thousands of extras
  • One man’s quest for enlightenment
  • Oversimplification
  • A healthy dose of political correctness
  • Noble savages
  • Interminable running length

Cotten nods in approval as his Boyer-Begman mutant springs to life.

76. Gaslight (1944)
[Note: review TK. Ghost story? Or is it? Gas jokes? Or are was “past” that sort of humor? {Ed.: Probably not, but try not to indulge} Something about a “young Angela Lansbury” aimed at TL. Wikipedia summary with randomly inserted swearing?]

Written and directed by MAD Magazine.

77. American Graffiti (1973)
A nostalgic love letter from George Lucas to a certain place and time: specifically someplace very white during the 1950s. Filled wall-to-wall (Christ, even the tires are white) with fast cars, moderately paced women and a young Harrison Ford (billed as “J. Harrison Christ”).

Takes the viewer back to a simpler time when “cruising” didn’t mean possibly facing arrest or contracting/delivering an STD. Revels in the simple pleasures of small-to-medium town living, in stark contrast to the “small towns are hotbeds of submerged depravity and severed ears” on display in Blue Velvet, which would arrive 13 years later and psychically scar the collective misplaced memories of hundreds of moviegoers, perhaps explaining its glaring omission from this list.

Brain damaged boxer scores a touchdown. Not pictured: out-of-wind caretaker.

78. Rocky (1976)
Populist Stallone vanity project, remaking 1980’s Raging Bull in its star’s own image, that of a well-meaning pugilist who has suffered too many blows to the head. Eliminated in this eerily prescient Raging Bull rewrite are the overtones of misogyny and brutality, replaced with inspiring montages of a rags-to-riches transformation and the worn cliches of redemption and winning the girl back rather than physically and emotionally abusing her.

In some ways much like Hollywood’s adaption of Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, into which a sympathetic character was inserted to give the audience someone to root for. (Although in other ways it is very different: for instance, Rocky contains no scenes of someone performing oral sex for coke money.) Exceedingly bicentennial.

Act director: "I honestly can't pick. They're all so good! Just jam them all in there somehow and print!"

79. The Deer Hunter (1978)
Michael Cimino’s searing indictment of both fronts of the Vietnam War, specifically the mind-altering trauma of the horrors of war and the soul-killing so-called “war at home.”

Robert De Niro plays a returning war vet who finds adjustment to everyday civilian life to be troublesome, what with its unfaithful women, judgmental anti-war activists and a distressing lack of suicidal party games. Most of the story is told through a series of flashbacks which help extend the running time past the three-hour mark and right onto AFI’s list.

Falls well short of the accolades garnered by Apocalypse Now which followed a year later, presumably because of Cimino’s failure to cast a bloated, insane Marlon Brando.

Fun fact: Cimino and Coppola had a running bet as to whose ‘Nam flick would have the longer running time. Coppola won this bet, using his success with The Godfather as leverage against the studio, thus securing him all the film stock he wanted. Cimino, on the other hand, lost several hours of raw footage after informing his studio that he would tear them a new moneyhole with his follow-up.

Rebooted in 1993 as "Grumpy Old Men" (originally titled: "Shoot-y Old Men" before drastic rewrite and recasting).

80. The Wild Bunch (1969)
Sam Peckinpah’s genre-altering Western delivered a new brand of cowboy to the multiplex. Gone were the stock characters, dying bloodless, one-hit deaths, replaced by PCP-laced supermen who often shrugged off a half-dozen bullet wounds, “walking it off” in slow motion while engaging entire battalions singlehandedly.

Perhaps inspired by Bonnie & Clyde (1967), The Wild Bunch gave rise to the notion that a person could only be killed while being shot from as many camera angles as possible.

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: 41-50

March 31, 2011
[Author’s note: As some of you are probably aware, a writer is a delicate human being with a fragile psyche (oft damaged by rejection notices and unnoticed misspellings) and an apparent inability to count. Hence, this skipped-over section of the Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films is appearing now (rather than never) and screwing with the whole 1-100 countdown we all agreed on sometime last year.
Further, Fundamental Jelly has indicated he would like to hear about my current tastes in media, but I don’t really have anything useful to recount at this point, other than: Archer. Watch. This. Show. Thanks in advance for your understanding and for keeping your mocking comments to a minimum.
Oh, yeah: the previous, randomly ordered entries can be found here:
The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films Archive]

Choreography by the Mens/Ladies Restroom Dance Troupe of Greater New York.

41. West Side Story (1961)
Coming on like a glee club production of Romeo and Juliet (mixing one-half Colors with one-half Michael Jackson video), West Side Story obscures its rote storyline with just enough added elements (finger snapping, singing) to keep familiarity from breeding contempt like so many Shakespearean rabbits.

Features some of the most beloved songs ever sung by non-threatening gang members and the women who love them, including “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty” and “99 Problems.” Exceedingly musical.

James Stewart, looking as nonchalant as a telescopic zoom lens will allow him to look.

42. Rear Window (1954)
Hitchcock’s entry into the “scary murderous neighbor” genre, following closely in the footsteps of Sliver and Pacific Heights. Jimmy Stewart plays an injured man whose recuperation takes the form of scaring the bejesus out of himself (and his wife) with his obsessional, psychopathic relationship with his telescope. Is his neighbor a killer? Is 120x recommended for apartment-to-apartment viewing? Will his leg ever heal?

These questions and more will remain unanswered as the third reel has been misplaced. Sorry about that, folks. Please stop by the box office for a partial refund.

King Kong, though an effective anti-terrorist deterrent, tended to create nearly an equal amount of collateral damage in NYC.

43. King Kong (1933)
Singlehandedly credited with creating the “monster movie” genre which plagues us to this day, King Kong is a triumph of movie mythmaking. As the action shifts from the tangled jungle of what-could-possibly-go-wrong-here Monster Island to the mean streets of New York City, viewers are forced to confront uncomfortable questions about “who the real monster here is” and to what extent the love story would have gone, had biplanes and other nuisances not interrupted the mismatched couple pre-coitus.

Featuring the big screen debut of Earl, the Bigoted Horse.

44. Birth of a Nation (1915)
Early movie mogul D.W. Griffith employs a cast of thousands of whites to rewrite the history of the United States as it was still being made. Although somewhat heavy-handed and exceedingly long, Griffith manages to keep his “alternate reality” film fresh by deploying such seldom-used plot devices as the KKK in non-villain roles and a bumbling depiction of Abraham Lincoln that would not be equaled until Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (#89). The cast of thousands lauded Griffith for his “slavedriver” work ethic and lax interpretation of EOE requirements. Exceedingly long.

Brando's endorsement contract with Russell Athletic ended shortly thereafter.

45. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
A Tennesee Williams’ Joint, A Streetcar Named Desire stars Marlon Brando as abusive, alcoholic everyman Stanley Kowalski whose iconic cry of “Stellaaaaaa!!!” (very often misquoted as “Adriaaaaannn!!!”) has become part of modern folklore.

Parents: Steer your children clear of this film. In addition to the psychosexual antics of some sweaty Southerners, this film also teaches kids not only to talk to strangers, but to “rely on their kindness.”

Kind of like Lenscrafters, but without the advantage of improved sight. Still, gotta love the speed!

46. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Yet another dystopian treatise on the many problems with today’s youth, not the least of which is their tendency to take long drives into the countryside for the sole purpose of smashing in someone’s skull with a large, phallic sculpture. That they are also partial to Hollywood musicals, Ludwig van Beethoven and milk is not comforting in the least, thanks to Kubrick’s ominous depiction of what was once considered an “unfilmable” book (Martin Hanford’s dada-esque tale of dislocation and hats, Where’s Waldo?).

Another “highlight” is the made-up language Nadsat, which has given the English language several new words, including ultraviolence, codpiece and tween.

De Niro, the consummate actor, heads toward his trailer to work on his "pocket pool" technique.

47. Taxi Driver (1976)
Scorsese’s ultraviolent (see above) take on the second-oldest service profession brings to life an “alternate” version of New York City where the streets are filled with rude assholes and 12-year-old hookers.

De Niro went “Method” of course, working 12-hours shifts as a cab driver when not flaunting his unlicensed weapon and nifty new mohawk. Inspired by his tireless efforts, Jodie Foster attempted a Method approach as well, resulting in the arrest of every adult on the set. Inspired by these events, a lone gunman interrupted Ronald Reagan’s portrayal of the US President with some well-placed bullets.

Inspired a new wave of filmmaking and one presidential assassination attempt, claims only equaled by Big Momma’s House and Big Momma’s House 2. Also inspired a generation of piss-poor De Niro impressions.

As is noted by the poster, being eaten by a massive mechanical shark may be "too intense" for younger children.

48. Jaws (1975)
Directly responsible for dozens of inferior monster movies and various Shark Weeks, Jaws (or Jawrs in the Northeastern US) is the tense tale of a rogue great white shark and a somewhat modern day triumph of filmmaking. Budget limits forced Spielberg to hand rig a variety of nearly-functional sharks and cast Roy Scheider and Richard Dreyfuss over younger, more attractive men who would have better handled the main characters’ often shirtless banter.

This also explains some long stretches where many people talk about the shark but not many actually see the shark. It also explains some scale inconsistencies in which the great white is portrayed as being anywhere from the size of a large tuna to the size of a 3-bedroom ranch-style home.

Based loosely on Moby Dick and followed by several sequels which stretched the emaciated idea to the breaking point before snapping it completely and continuing forward with absolutely no ideas at all. The nadir of the series (Jaws 3D) posited that the shark was only interested in leaping or charging directly at the camera.

Snow White demonstrates how she we will be paying for only one ticket at the theater.

49. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)
The first Disney film on AFI’s list, Snow White is also the first animated film to be featured in AFI’s Top 100. A triumph of imagineering, Snow White does what classic Disney does best: take someone else’s story and make millions of dollars off it through aggressive marketing, merchandising and bullying copyright control.

Ostensibly the story of a deathly pale den mother for a pack of overly-hairy child laborers, this Disney film features a timeless story ripped right from the public domain pages of the Brothers Grimm and converted into a successful series of collectors’ plates, outerwear and Happy Meal toys.

There’s some other mumbo-jumbo in there about true love being more effective than CPR and the evils of strip-mining, but mainly it’s just the normal “woman falls in love with a crew of undersexed animators under the control of a marketing machine built by an undersexed megalomaniac with Howard Hughes’ tendencies.” The New York Times Review of Film calls it “timeless,” most likely referring to Disney’s apparently infinite supply of copyright extensions.

Unfortunately, a misfiring blank cost the cameraman everything but his sepia filter.

50. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
Proto-bloody cop flick, except that the cops are criminals and the dangerous inner city is the frontier and that Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson are Robert Redford and Paul Newman. Filled to the brim with shootouts, hijinks and hats.

A highly romanticized portrait of two thugs with screenwritten hearts of gold and the lamest theme song (Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head) in the history of lame Oscar-winning theme songs. Features some groundbreaking bicycle usage and positive portrayals of both alcohol use and “bromance.”

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume 8

February 18, 2011

Better “sometime” than “never,” it’s the penultimate edition of our long-running, long-winded guide to the “American Film Institute’s Top 100 Films That Everyone Agrees are Pretty Much Good Films.”

Previous editions available here:
AFI’s Top 100 Films Archive

Chaplin's imaginative use of color was completely lost on the film stock, which refused to be anything other than black and white.

81. Modern Times (1936)
Another Chaplin-esque masterpiece, thanks to its prominent use of Charlie Chaplin in a variety of roles, including actor, director and writer. A searing indictment of industrialism, Modern Times is heavily metaphoric, which generally means it plays well with film school students, who have a tendency to read lots of stuff into other stuff, and stoners, who like all things “heavy” and/or “deep.”

Of course, Chaplin’s exuberant physical comedy also tends to make these same stoners feel “tired” and “not able to make it into work today,” leaving them free to channel-surf away to less tiring entertainments like children’s programming or test patterns.

James Dean poses in his traditional give-a-fuck style, dwarfing a nearby house with his outsized persona.

82. Giant (1956)
The second third (see also: Rebel Without a Cause [#59]) of James Dean’s cigarette-burned body of work, Giant details the inner turmoil of an outwardly successful family of farmers or oil barons or something.

Its sweeping vistas and temperamental glowering illustrate perfectly the truism that “money can’t buy happiness” and, unfortunately, neither can “no money.” Along with it not being able to “buy happiness,” “no money” is unable to buy much else, like comfort or stability.

Critically acclaimed despite its lack of leather jackets and Sal Mineo, Giant continues to pose a haunting “What if…” in regard to Dean’s severely truncated career as well as a “What if…” in regard to Elizabeth Taylor, who in later years would seem to have been better off “not living.”

Oliver Stone would rehash this same haunting imagery for the final scene of "Any Given Sunday."

83. Platoon (1986)
Coke fiend Oliver Stone draws upon his own experiences as a Christ-figure during the Vietnam War to craft this Charlie Sheen vehicle. Despite being the hot new face on the scene (a scene which apparently included a whole lot of hookers), Sheen is regularly out-acted by co-stars Willem Dafoe, Forrest Whittaker and the local flora.

Stone’s message-laden film uses its Vietnam War backdrop to allow the viewers to fill in the blanks of his forgone conclusions resulting in a minorly epic biopic which fearlessly bashes an unpopular war more than a decade after it ended.

North Dakota: nothing but dead bodies and snow.

84. Fargo (1996)
Midwesterners: when they’re not murdering their partners in crime, they’re murdering English with their flatly nasal interjections, am I right? Supposedly based on a true story that never happened, the Coen brothers’ Fargo is a dark comedy of errors with a mile-wide mean streak.

On the bright side, Frances McDormand took home an Oscar for her portrayal of a small-town policewoman, marking the first time that the Academy has recognized a pregnant woman in this fashion. McDormand delivered a cute acceptance speech while barefoot and on her way the kitchen to make finger sandwiches for the Academy members.

Unfortunately, a hairdressing accident forced Chico Marx to perform the film wearing a melted showercap.

85. Duck Soup (1933)
Comedy classic featuring a troupe of stereotypes performing under a revolutionary surname, one which garnered them some unwanted attention during the McCarthy hearings. The so-called “Marx Brothers” included Groucho Marx, a philandering wisacre whose numerous affectations included a moustache and eyebrows, a constant cigar and the low-slung gait of a hernia sufferer; Harpo Marx, a mute manchild whose penchant for upskirt glances was offset by his harp ownership; Chico Marx, whose Italian accent and bad habits were an inspiration for the Mario Bros., one of whom was inexplicably named Luigi; and Zeppo Marx, whose vanilla personality rarely conflicted with the extras who frequently stole his scenes.

Their comedy was a mixture of verbal wit, absurdist physical comedy and the occasional show-offy musical interlude. Duck Soup is one of their most typical efforts, filled with all the elements listed. (“State Room Scene” not included.)

Clark Gable combated baldness by grooming his back hair upward.

86. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)
An unflinching look at maritime regulations via the denizens of the HMS Bounty, a seafaring ship (that’s a Cusslerism) whose minor uprising became the stuff of near-legend. This cautionary tale offers a somewhat brutal reminder as to why it’s never a good idea to pick a fight in the middle of the ocean, especially with someone who retains very “old school” ideas about crime and punishment.

Unfortunate things are said, most of them “out of line.” Whips are deployed. Everyone gets too much sun. A hierarchy is challenged. Water pretty much everywhere. Someone gazes intently at or through a sextant. Men speak at length in salty, impenetrable sailor lingo.

Nothing pisses off reanimated corpses faster than dimly lit windmills.

87. Frankenstein (1931)
Original film version of Mary Shelley’s beach novel Dr. Frankenstein, which thrilled vacationers with its fast paced mixture of Jewish golem mythology and British Hammer horror. The “Frankenstein” actually refers to the good doctor who earns the ire of both the Homeowner’s Association and the Chamber of Commerce with his affronts to God and outsized electric bill.

The intrusive townsfolk are none too thrilled with the monster either, thanks to a.) it being a monster (and an affront to God) and b.) its habit of tossing things like children into the nearest river to see if they’ll float.

Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper terrorize the middle of nowhere with their brash hairstyles and lack of proper safety gear.

88. Easy Rider (1969)
Single-handedly introduced counterculture to the US via the druggy, two-wheeled antics of Jack “Deviated Septum” Nicholson, Peter “Jane’s Dad” Fonda and Dennis “Naturally Batshit” Hopper. Consummate professionals all, Fonda, Hopper and Nicholson insisted on doing all of their own riding and stunts, especially as it became apparent that the film’s tight budget meant no stuntmen would be hired.

The film itself alternates between cautionary and hallucinatory, proving by the shocking final act that it takes a lot more than a couple of hippies and their Harleys to change the status quo. While its sentiments and clothing may seem dated, its lack of a propulsive storyline and competent editing ushered in a “new wave” of self-consciously artistic films.

Patton was later court-maritaled for "contempt of uniform." The "ridiculous pants" and "galoshes" were specifically sited.

89. Patton (1970)
One of the finest war flicks of all time, bringing home an Oscar for both George C. Scott and his co-star Enormous American Flag, the latter of which drew positive comparisons to the gold standard of dramatic backdrops, Charles Foster Kane’s Enormous Head.

Although they only had one scene together, critics agree that nothing else in the exceedingly long running time comes close to the nuanced interplay of Scott’s gruff scene-chewing and Flag’s stoic but judgmental silence. Elsewhere, people shoot people and Scott emotes gruffly. E.A. Flag is folded respectfully and shipped off to New Jersey for a scheduled appearance on a Springsteen album cover.

Exceedingly gruff/long.

Early poster mockup for "Amos and Andrew Ridgely."

90. The Jazz Singer (1927)
When Al Jolson’s blackfaced lips nearly synched up to the soundtrack and offensively stated “You ain’t heard nothin’ yet!,” the world of motion pictures was changed forever. No longer would moviegoers have to suffer in silence as a hack pianist cranked out an improvised soundtrack to images of horses running or heavily made-up leading men macking on heavily made-up leading ladies in between title cards stating “Scene missing” or “I want to fuck you like an animal.”

With the advent of sound recording, “talkies” were born, instantly alienating their male audience, most of whom felt that women should be seen and not heard and the deaf, who felt everything should be seen and not heard. (The title cards were hailed by Deaf Gentleman’s Fortnightly as “Braille for the eyes.”)

Now that actors and writers were freed from the tyranny of a single sense, they began cranking out “talkies” left and right, filled to the brim with loud noises and speedy, incessant chatter.

Movies fans spent the next 20+ years being talked at constantly. During the 50s, the backlash began, led by Ghengis Khan impersonator John Wayne, whose easy drawl ran against the grain of whirlwind chatter. As westerns began to take over the cinema, actors went from being described as “hyperactive” and “fedora-clad” to being referred to as “laconic” or “possibly drunk.”

This backlash reached its peak in 1968 when iconoclast and current dead man Stanley Kubrick released 2001: A Space Odyssey, a movie whose epic running time consists of long shots very lightly peppered with low-key conversations between a space crew and their computer. The “barely there” conversation drops to near zero later in the film after the computer is given the “silent treatment” by the sole non-murdered astronaut.

Skip ahead 13 years and the backlash against backlash has begun. “Talkies” are big again! Spearheaded by the indie film industry, chattery films fill the multiplex. The seminal My Dinner with Andre is the touchstone, being nothing more than a filmed conversation between two actors. This trailblazer is followed by Clerks (My Dinner with Andre with more talking, swearing and Star Wars references) and Reservoir Dogs (My Dinner with Andre with more talking, swearing, pop culture examination and chillingly soundtracked earcapitation).

-CLT

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<(<0)

January 14, 2011

As Downey Jr. tries to sober up for the day's shoot, McCarthy attempts a new expression called "pensiveness."

[This is a followup piece to the Top 50 post involving  Lazer Crystal, specifically how much their music sounds like the perfect soundtrack to drugging it up 80s-style. Unfortunately, this film gets both the music and the drugging it up completely wrong. So, rather than the nihilistic depravity of Ellis’ novel, we get Andrew “Jiminy Cricket” McCarthy and Poison covering KISS.]

Adapting the “unfilmable” Bret Easton Ellis to the big screen has always been a challenge. The first attempt was so poor it’s amazing that Rules of Attraction or American Psycho even got greenlit, much less critically acclaimed.

There are a number of reasons why Less Than Zero failed spectacularly, none of which are named Robert Downey, Jr. or James Spader:

The Political Climate
Of all the behind-the-scenes tinkering that went on, it was the attempt to appease the national anti-drug climate that did the most damage. The conversion of the protagonist into a sympathetic, moral character pleased nervous studio execs and the First Lady herself but was completely at odds with Ellis’ coke-fueled tale of amoral hedonism.

(Specifically, this was the era of Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign which posited that only reason kids were doing drugs was because no one had mentioned it was ok to turn down offers from drug pushers.

Speaking of which, drug “pushers” only exist in the fevered waking dreams of PTL/PTC members and the sordid cartoon tales of Jack Chick. The infamous Chick tracts in particular paint everything and everyone in ridiculously broad black and white strokes. Drug pushers are nihilistic wraiths of pure evil and the users themselves fare even worse, being prone to prostitution, theft, homicide, child abuse and suicide, all within 15 2-frame pages. Definitely something everyone should check out at least once.

Chick was right about one thing: hippies are idiots.

Ever since the government began placing various substances on various schedules, it’s been a seller’s market. No dealer really has to push his product. The shit practically sells itself. Just ask Rick Ross, whose massive amount of blow must have sold itself while he was in prison. As a guard.

[Notable exception: the Recession of 2008 when drug dealers were cold-calling previous customers hoping to drum up some sales. This lack of interest would seem to indicate that a lot of people can actually just use drugs rather than only abuse them. If you can stop scoring just because it no longer fits in the budget then you don’t really have a problem. Some people drove less. Some people bought more generics. And some people, apparently, bought less coke.]

/digression)

The Soundtrack
While it is very much a snapshot of the charts (Poison, Public Enemy, Aerosmith, Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc.), it is not in any way a good soundtrack, having more in common with Patrick Bateman’s avidly mainstream music collection than anything cutting edge or, indeed, fitting. Had the movie been made with any intelligence, we might have found some irony in the tracklisting. As it is, it reeks of calculation and demographic gladhanding, much like the film’s staunchly anti-drug message.

McCarthy tries (and fails) to produce more charisma than his tie.

Andrew McCarthy
McCarthy grabbed the starring role based on his work as the lead in Mannequin,a phrase that has never been deployed since. Bringing with him all the tabula rasa charisma that allowed him to portray a showroom dummy, McCarthy blands up the action with his tiring sincerity and an acting range that stretches from emotionless to a mild brow furrow when called upon to express something other than “warm body.”

Jamie Gertz adds nothing herself except some additional repressed awkwardness. The combination of these two leads’ sexual magnetism (we’re adding negatives at this point) adds a disturbing layer of self-consciousness to their sex scenes, coating these set pieces with a sheen of nervous sweat.

Nothing says "hot" like two people who look like that have no idea what the fuck they're doing.

It doesn’t help that the movie tries to have it both ways, pouring inordinate amounts of shoehorned morality all over the insincere hedonism. The principals go at it like two valedictorians attempting to slum it on Frat Row, conjuring images of your parents getting juiced and banging each other on the balcony of their Disneyworld hotel room.

McCarthy and Gertz never acted so hard in their lives, an effort which shows through clearly during these “passionate” moments. It creates a sense of empathetic embarrassment in the audience with their every sweaty maneuver being somehow less erotic than coke fiend Downey’s desperation mens room blowjobs. It all becomes like a trip to an American nudist colony where your initial enthusiasm is quickly dampened by the realization that the people who most want to run around naked are also the people who you most want to see with way more clothes on.

All in all, this travesty was enough to cause Bret Easton Ellis to disown it, distancing himself from the half-assed “message movie” that rose malformed from his breakthrough piece of narcissitic nihilism.

(Interestingly enough, Ellis’ sequel to Less Than Zero, Imperial Bedrooms has given him hope of a cast reunion. Unfortunately, he wants McCarthy and Gertz as well:

“Easton Ellis is hoping that a movie would reunite Spader, McCarthy, Jamie Gertz and others – and, after Robert Downey Jr.’s well-chronicled substance-abuse difficulties and subsequent triumph over them, feels that the recent Oscar-nominee could bring something special to a second turn as Julian Wells.”

Hellfire.)

-CLT

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume 7

December 19, 2010

This undying series continues to march on, now up to 7 on the scale of “started-finished.” At this rate, we’ll be ringing in 2012 with our jetpacks or whatever, ignoring troubling (and often unreadable) signs of global warming/cooling/non-change and steadfastly ignoring the missing post for #41-50.

Yeah. And we’re going to keep fucking ignoring it until the series winds up. At that point, I’ll start referring to it as a “lost episode” and treat it as though I found it crumpled up in a drawer when I was looking for socks or bullets or condoms or booze.

Play catchup here:

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6

Even Hitchcock's Spirograph doodles were hailed as "masterpieces" during his heyday.

61. Vertigo (1958)
Classic Hitchcock, dealing with mistaken identities, doppelgangers, semi-rare medical conditions and directorial cameos. A tension-filled suspense piece, revolving around a person seemingly inhabiting two bodies (or perhaps, two people sharing one body with the aid of some hair dye and a Tues-Thurs-Sat rotation or something), Vertigo takes a long (but not that long) look at obsession and the havoc it can wreak on the mental states of those involved, often reducing them to wandering state parks emoting and talking in non-sequiturs.

When people refer to something as being “Hitchcockian,” they’re referring to the psychological horror of situations like those mentioned and most likely not your penchant for stabbing people while they shower.

The Crying Game has nothing on the heartrending scene in which Hoffman gets felt up by Dabney Coleman to the haunting strains of Dave Gruisin abusing some sort of woodwind.

62. Tootsie (1982)
Following the cross-dressing groundwork laid by Some Like It Hot, Tootsie proves the age-old theory that men make the best women, especially in competitive arenas, which, in turn, follows the groundwork laid by Soul Man, in which C. Thomas Howell proved that white people make the best black people. (Of course, this also factors into the Wayans brothers’ White Chicks, whose late-period revisionism posited that black men make the best white women and Michael Winterbottom’s Nine Songs, which made the bold statement that normal people make the best porn stars.)

Despite Dustin Hoffman’s incredible ugliness, Tootsie was a box office success, making cross-dressing a go-to role for actors of a certain age/ugliness. (See also: Mrs. Doubtfire, which theorizes that ex-husbands make the best au pairs or Benchwarmers, which states that underachieving adults make the best youth softball teams.)

A love triangle for the ages: who will Love Interest #1 choose? Drunky McBagwaver or Ol' Squinteye?

63. Paint Your Wagon (1969)
Another quickie hammered out during the post-heyday of Hollywood musicals, taking full advantage of the American public’s willingness to watch anything that contained singing and dancing, even if it was all shoehorned into a genre that really didn’t lend itself to that sort of synchronized emotion.

Paint Your Wagon took viewers back to a simpler time, filled with simpler people living in a world free of stock market collapses and unpopular wars. A time when men were men and wore garters on their arms and women were women and wore overly-complicated dresses. A time when spontaneously (as indicated by the script) bursting into song was viewed as not “clinically insane” or “that part of Magnolia.” Kind of show-offy in all honesty, with a story that could have been told in half the time, if everyone would have just shut the hell up.

ELO: Live at Devil's Tower. (Or Daft Punk, if you prefer.)

64. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Spielberg’s pre-E.T. foray into the world of alien lifeforms, which is refreshingly free of central prepubescent characters and new-agey feel-good moments. This means no flying bikes or drunken telepathy, but on the other hand, it allows for more tone-deaf keyboard playing and obssesive mashed potato sculpting.

Suffered the misfortune of being released in the same year as Star Wars, whose pulp serial storyline portrayed outer space as being just like Earth (only darker), full of roaring engines and audible lasers. Because of this, Close Encounters’ deliberate pacing and suspenseful storyline look like your father’s Oldsmobile (i.e., ugly enough to make you want to park it at the back of the lot, but big enough to get you comfortably laid).

This eerily prescient poster foreshadows Jodie Foster's role in "Nell," where she played a feral child cursed with "moth mouth."

65. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The first motion picture to feature a sympathetic cannibal and win an Oscar (sorry, Alive), The Silence of the Lambs gave Jodie Foster one of the best written characters she’d ever played. The resulting popularity garnered her an enormous amount of goodwill, which she quickly squandered by playing a gibberish speaking feral woman-child in a shameless attempt to snag another Oscar for her work in Nell.

Anthony Hopkins, on the other hand, went on to play a variety of repressed Brits in a shameless attempt to snag an Oscar or two for himself, which would join his knighthood in the trophy case. The actor portraying serial killer Buffalo Bill went on to be known as the actor who portrayed Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.

As the four floating heads hover menacingly overhead, Peter Finch finds himself trapped in a David Lynch dream sequence.

66. Network (1976)
No movie has done more to alter our collective perception of the nightly news than Network. Once viewed as infalliable and impartial sources of information, newscasters today are viewed as egomaniacal charlatans with misanthropic personalities and sizable drug habits. Those few who have managed to escape this perception are regarded as “bland” at best and “unwatched” at worst.

However, it would appear that most news agencies and their employees are unaware of this shift in mass perception and continue to present themselves as “fair and balanced” (FOX News), “CNN” (CNN) and “not completely unattractive” (your local news team).

Directly responsible for the overused “mad as hell” statement which the moviegoing public has chosen to apply to any situation (tax increases, being charged extra for cheese, being asked to phrase their answer in the form of a question) rather than in their actual context as the ravings of a suicidal madman.

The promotional poster would like to remind you that fuck you for not showing up on time.

67. The Machurian Candidate (1962)
Pitched as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Kills People,” The Manchurian Candidate is one of the finest examinations of Cold War paranoia ever filmed and the only examination to feature the acting chops of a somewhat psychopathic, mobbed-up Las Vegas crooner. (Look for Wayne Newton in a small role as an Army psychiatrist.)

Despite its 67th-place finish, critics are still arguing about its inclusion on this list, citing its distinct lack of gratuitous car chases, gratuitious swearing or tastefully-lit gratuitious nudity. Others have cited its use of black and white film as a cheap ploy to “garner accolades” and disparaged its equally cheap crossover with Murder, She Wrote.

This dog runs on Freedom Fries.

68. An American in Paris (1951) An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
The weak sequel to John Landis’ classic An American Werewolf in London, which wasn’t aided by the decision to release it 16 years after the original, utilizing none of the original writing or directing staff. This is compounded by the leads’ lack of chemistry oracting talent and use of almost-competent CGI.

Followed by several more sequels in the same vein (Ha! Oh, wait… they’re not vampires. Scratch that.), most of which went straight-to-internet (via DVD), including An American Werewolf in Stuttgart, An American Werewolf in the Matrix, An American Werewolf in Phoenix and An American Werewolf in Paris Hilton.

There never was a gunslinger like Carpal Tunnel McGraw.

69. Shane (1953)
Anti-heroic Western riddled with continuity errors. To wit:

“This doesn’t even mention the regrettable error in the final scene, where the climax is undercut by Van Heflin’s accent, which goes from Western American to Scottish to Klingon in a three-minute span. And let’s not even bring up the sudden appearance of a laser pistol in a baddie’s hand during the barroom brawl.”

Getting shot in the back while fleeing: the hallmark of the French "resistance."

70. The French Connection (1971)
The true story of Detective James “Popeye” Doyle whose tireless efforts and breathless car chases singlehandedly took down the heroin industry, freeing America from the clutches of the evil opiate and relegating its usage to rock stars (Pete Doherty, J. Spaceman, Axl Rose, Clay Aiken) and other fringe members of society (mainly Pete Doherty and his girlfriends).

-CLT