Posts Tagged ‘Lists’

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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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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume 6

December 5, 2010

Holy hell! Does this thing still exist? And for why?

It does, exceptionally bad grammar notwithstanding. Catch up via the way-way-wayback machine with the following links:

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5


Starring Katherine Hepburn as perhaps the most masculine "gangbangee" ever.

51. The Philadelphia Story (1940)
An anomaly on this list, The Philadelphia Story is the biopic of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which traces the history of the “City of Brotherly Love” from its humble beginnings as one of several “birthplaces of Democracy” to the battery-throwing thug it is today.

Other highlights include a montage of Dr. J dunks, an exploration of Lenny Dykstra’s financial empire and a football stadium full of fans booing Santa Claus. Also includes a few shots of the Liberty Bell and its famous crack, showing yet again that the citizens of Philadelphia “just can’t have nice things.”

US censors indicate that some shady Orientals are to blame for widespread beach makeout sessions.

52. From Here to Eternity (1953)
Director Fred Zinnemann makes the most of a pre-World War II Hawaiian backdrop to set the stage for two hours of Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr making out on the beach. Occasionally bits of storyline pop up to keep the guys’ attention and avoid being shut down by the ratings board.

Winner of 8 Academy Awards, including "Best Poster Not Having a Goddamn Thing to Do with the Movie"

53. Amadeus (1984)
Biopic of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s severely truncated life as filtered through one of his bitterest rivals. A child prodigy who was composing etudes by six weeks of age, Mozart (or Amadeus) died at the tender age of 35, proving the old adage that “the candle which burns twice as bright giggles twice as psychotically.”

Traces Amadeus’ (or Wolfgang’s) story arc (which follows his “life arc” quite closely) as he plays for idiot royalty, tangles with surly rivals and giggles psychotically. Tom Hulce shines in the title role, before vanishing completely from the public radar.*

*What about Dominick and Eugene? Are you seriously asking that? Then let me clarify: by “public radar” I meant other high-profile starring roles, not award-baiting portrayals of retarded trashmen.

AKA, "All Noisy as Hell on the Overcrowded Poster."

54. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
The “War Movie to End All War Movies,” All Quiet on the Western Front‘s detailed take on World War I was, like the war slogan itself, a bit too optimistic about its place in history. Much like the idea of “no more wars after this one” keeps getting its ass handed to it by each successive war, this war movie has been on the receiving end of its own ass several times since its original release.

The most notable of these ass-handings is Saving Private Ryan, whose depiction of the Normandy Beach landing will not soon be topped, thanks to Spielberg’s insistence on using live ammunition and anti-personnel mines.

Members of the Von Trapp cult gaily follow their multi-colored leader to the compound where new Nikes and Kool-Aid await.

55. The Sound of Music (1965)
One of the very few musicals with Nazis as central characters (see also: The Producers; Inglorious Basterds), The Sound of Music is the supposedly true story of the singing Von Trapp family, whose blonde-haired, blue-eyed good looks would not be tolerated by an incoming Nazi regime, hence the escape during the final reel.

As is the case with most musicals, there’s a hell of a lot of singing , which adequately handles some of the exposition as the movie itself seems unconcerned with propelling the love story of a glorified nanny and her patrician lover. The children have plenty to say/sing as well, which they handle by running through fields or wandering around the gazebo area. Anywhere but inside the house, goddammit, unless you’re taking your adorably blonde asses right to bed.

If the story isn’t enough, there’s also some beautiful scenery which you may be able to glimpse briefly through the swelling strings and freshly-scrubbed, aggressively blonde faces. Directly responsible for some of the most disturbing images on the internet.

 

Another M*A*S*H* surgery success story proudly shows off its new hat (and heels).

56. M*A*S*H* (1970)
While America was busy dealing with the Pyrrhic losses of Vietnam, iconoclastic director Robert Altman was attempting to distract viewers from the “war at home” (“home” being a southern Asian nation) with a war story about Korea, which had absolutely no parallels with the current situation.

Filled with dark humor, drinking and classic Altman touches like letting every character talk at the same time, M*A*S*H* is one of the finest war films ever made, beating out John Wayne’s The Green Berets, which attempted to rewrite history while it was still being written.

Led to a successful TV show that lasted 15-20 times as long as the Korean War itself while dipping heavily into mawkish sentimentality and providing baby boomers with a collective set of false memories. It also served notice to Americans that their doctors drank and smoked more than they did and that crossdressing = crazy.

Orson Welles awkwardly (and somewhat frighteningly) tells his Jesus joke.

57. The Third Man (1949)
Orson Welles’ other film on AFI’s list, a post-war drama hailed universally as “not Citizen Kane” and “#57 on AFI’s List.” Despite the dubious accolades and faint damning praise, The Third Man is still worth a look for its tense set pieces and continuous mockery of the Swiss people and their customs.

In addition to Welles’ ad libbed quote about years of Swiss neutrality resulting in only the cuckoo clock, Welle’s also riffs on their cheese (“It’s more what’s between the holes, eh comrades?”) and peculiar outerwear (“Neutrality means never owning a complete set of pants.”) He goes on to say “At least you can be sure the Swiss Miss is a “miss,” unlike Sweden where everyone changes sexes as often as conversation topics,” concluding, “Bah. I’m old, fat and bitter.”

With a sweeping gesture, Mickey Mouse swiftly copyrights the universe.

58. Fantasia (1940)
An outgrowth of America’s burgeoning Drug War, in which hallucinogenics were never taken but rather forced on American soldiers and, in this case, undersexed American animators toiling under the thumb of a somewhat benevolent plutocrat.

And toil they did, animating a collection of disjointed vignettes in a futile attempt to “sketch the crazy out.” Hippos dance with alligators. Volcanoes erupt. Furious gods make appearances. Mickey Mouse himself battles armies of reproducing brooms in a none-too-subtle indictment of our current immigration problem. One of only a handful of films considered “umfilmable,” easily on par with anything Kubrick, Gilliam or Lynch have produced.

[A side note: The Disney Corporation briefly considered turning this movie into a ride (and then into a movie again) but harsh daylight and strychnine cramps derailed this idea before it could become anything more than a coloring-outside-the-lines wet dream.]

[Another side note: Disney animators are encouraged to “spill their ink” on company time as this periodic release reduces the number of penis drawings appearing in children’s movies.]

A rare shot of James Dean's early ad work for Lee Riders.

59. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)
This proto-teen flick, full of raw adolescent emotion and disjointed mumbling, is still an influence on teens today who, like their hero, Will Smith, are sure their parents “just don’t understand.”

Featuring the eyes-down acting of James Dean, whose insouciant good looks and fast living saw him leave behind a good-looking corpses (and red jacket) after only three films. Despite this truncated resume (or “C.V.” everywhere else in the world), his influence is still echoes, mainly through the acting style of Luke Perry who, like James Dean, had a severely truncated career. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the decency to die but would apparently rather live on through a series of straight-to-DVD movies.

This tale of teen angst and the damage done culminates in a shocking act of violence, in which Sal Mineo is killed in the observatory with a gun, most likely at the hand of Professor Plum.

Those expecting nothing but "man nipples and bullwhippings" will find "Raiders" incredibly fulfilling.

60. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
A throwback to the days of classic cinema, a fondly remembered time that is often referred to when disparaging current films, often using the phrase, “They don’t make them like they used to.” Of course, they don’t make paint with lead anymore and most schools are free from asbestos and cyanide-laced Tylenol, but still, things were much “better” back in the day.

In this modern reimagination of the old Hollywood serials, Harrison Ford takes on the role of Dr. Indiana Jones, swashbuckling archaeologist and bullwhip enthusiast. Taking a tongue-in-cheek approach, Ford coasts through the adventure with a look of perpetual bemusement, building on earlier roles in films such as Star Wars (perpetual cocky disbelief), Apocalypse Now (perpetual clean-shaven officiousness) and Bladerunner (perpetual indigestion).

This formative role would lay the groundwork for Ford’s later emotional expansiveness in The Mosquito Coast (perpetual sweatiness), Presumed Innocent (perpetual Ceaeser), Regarding Henry (perpetual glower followed by perpetual idiotic wonder) and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (perpetual refrigerated bemusement).

-CLT

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Branson, Missouri Calendar of Events

September 26, 2010
Birthplace of White Bread and Unflavored Yogurt

Birthplace of White Bread and Unflavored Yogurt

[Hiatus swiftly turning into a sabbatical. Here’s another from the archives to keep the dust from settling… Pay close attention to the botched BTO joke. Originally published May 12, 2009.]

Summer’s on its way and it’s never to early to plan for a visit to garish Branson, Missouri. Birthplace of Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Airlines, Branson offers many varied events for the discriminating traveler. In fact, nothing sums up the Branson experience more than discrimination!

May

  • Jim Nabors Circus and Sideshow
  • Bing Crosby: Fatherhood (6-drink minimum)
  • Planter’s Nut Tasting: Spotlight on Filbert
  • Blue Angels Flyover
  • Branson Young Republicans Present: Beginner Trust Fund Investment
  • UFC! 22
  • American Idol Contestants #344, #12,077 and #61,008
  • Infomercial Taping
  • The Best of the Sanitized Internet: Brought to You by AOL
  • Shat! – The Life and Times of America’s Most Beloved Entertainer. A William Shatner productions featuring William Shatner as himself.

June

  • Andy Rooney: the Original Shock Jock
  • The Hour of Power featuring the Reverend Al Sharpton
  • Cops:Live!
  • Nickelback: 75 Minutes of Your Life That You’ll Never Have Back Tour
  • Annie, Get Your Gun featuring Charlton Heston as himself
  • Robert Fulghum: Tiresome Platitudes for Everyday Situations
  • Estroven Presents: Hot Flashes of Passion featuring Air Supply and Rick Astley
  • It Feels a Little Damp! Might Rain! Better Bring a Coat! – Daily weather brought to you by Up With People!
  • Community Service Theater Presents: The Vagina Monologues featuring Dana Plato and Lisa Bonet
  • Does This Look Done?: Your Guide to Branson’s Early-Bird Buffets
  • Napalm Death – All Ages Show

July

  • Rosie Grier’s Microwave Cookery and EMT Training
  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner – starring Sinbad! and Carrie Prejean. Spencer Tracy’s role will be played by Brian Dennehy; Katherine Hepburn’s role will be played by C-3PO in a wig.
  • Expired Copyright Film Festival
  • Russell Simmon’s Def Comedy Jam
  • Sansabelt Presents: Pat Boone in the Round
  • David Cross Insults Your Belief System
  • The Minor Chords: Barbershop Quartet Stylings from John Oates, Jim Messina, Art Garfunkel and Andrew Ridgeley
  • Christopher Reeve in President for Life: The FDR Story (cancelled)
  • An Evening with Mr. Donald Mills
  • An Introductory Guide to Black Presidents
  • Tony Robbins: The IMAX Experience

August

  • Some of the Boys Are Back in Town! Three-fifths of Bachman-Turner Overdrive reunite to sing their greatest hit, over and over.
  • Dame Edna’s Ballet of the Transgendered
  • The Strangely Inappropriate Antics of the Stanford Marching Band
  • Agreeing to Disagree: Your VCR and You
  • American Flagg! – A Patriotic Musical
  • Blissfully Unaware Productions Presents: Watersports: Fun pool activities to guaranteed to provide the most “bang” for your “gang!” Also included: Our famous Afternoon Delight Buffet including Ron J.’s famous footlongs, fish tacos, tossed salad, cream pies and the winning entries from our Caribbean Meat Jerk-Off!
  • Who’s On First? starring Bill Buckner and Jack Clark (4-drink minimum)
  • Panthers Can Be White: An introspective look at the MC5 and the revolution that never was
  • Regis and Kathie Lee Together Again! – Now starring in David Mamet’s Sexual Perversity in Chicago
  • Bitching About How Things Used to Be: Featuring commentary from Sinbad! (“Women be different than men”) and Yakoff Smirnoff (“Russia be different than America”).

-CLT

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Great Lion Tamers of the Past Vol. 3

September 21, 2010
[And here it is… the last episode of the fakest family tree to ever grace WordPress. Originally published July 7, 2009.]

Time for another dive into the historic dumpster called “Great Lion Tamers of the Past.” As in previous installments (see here, and also, here) we will cast a jaded eye back at the various scoundrels, ne’er-do-wells and boy band managers that secured the Lion Tamers place in history as society’s black eye.

Cartoon-Constit

Jerome Noble Lion Tamer
As the proprietor of upscale strip-mall favorite “Barnes & Noble Heavy-Ass Coffee Table Books,” J.N. gained a reputation for only stocking the most ostentatious titles, each weighing no less that 25 lbs.

He is shown here handling, with disastrous results, Vol. 14 of the U.S. Constitution, on his way to the discount table. Only mildly popular, due to the tremendous amount of revisions, amendments and missing pages, all volumes of the Constitution usually wrapped up the year collecting dust with other deeply discounted tomes.

Older versions were often found placed next to such illustrious and swiftly forgotten favorites, such as The Collected Doodles of Lance Bass, Freight Cars of America, The Collected Nude Portraits of Gertrude Stein, and Booze Broads and Bedlam, the last of which soon became the children’s cherished sketch pad due to its enormous size and completely blank pages.

Cartoon-Situation

Elijah Montegarde Lion Tamer
A former sideshow performer and the 1903 winner of the “Most Ungainly Hairdo: Facial Division” award, E.M. would often “entertain” guests with various feats of daredevilry featuring his indoor cannon.

Named “Congress,” not after the hair-triggered legislative branch, but rather in a very blatant and poorly thought out attempt at subtle innuendo (the other side says “Sexual”). “Congress” was often used as a very frightening form of foreplay in his deviant rumpus room, or “War Office.” E.M. often lamented that no matter how explicit he was about his preferences in his many Craigslist personals, most “War Office Key Parties” tended to be sparsely attended “sausagefests.”

E.M. died alone from a self-inflicted headwound as did “Little Elijah,” who succumbed to a self-inflicted gunshot wound from E.M.’s pistol, “Little Congress.”

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Octavius Rockefeller Lion Tamer
The richest man of all time, O.R. amused himself as only the insanely rich can: by doing insane (and insanely expensive) things. He spent a little over $7 million ($380 billion in today’s dollars) on reconstructive surgery in order to become the largest man on the Eastern seaboard.

Once finished with this physical ordeal, O.R. found it easy to “pocket” Congressmen and Senators, forcing them to run the legislative treadmill for years at a time.

With the Capitol building converted to a rib smoker, O.R. headed east to terrorize Europe and Asia. After a minor struggle with the 300-foot Spectre of Fascism, O.R. strode, unchallenged across Asia. His comeuppance finally occurred in downtown Osaka, Japan, where he was defeated by the eight wonder of the world: Mecha-Godzilla.

Though his outsized remains were greeted by thousands of mourners stateside, astute observers of the funeral noticed a disproportionate amount of “Thank god he’s dead,” and “It couldn’t have happened to a bigger prick” comments, leading modern historians to subsequently place mourners in quotes.

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Roderick Arthur Lion Tamer
Another in a long-line of circus and sideshow performers within the Lion Tamer clan, R.A. turned his years of scamming and entertaining rural yokels into a long run as the official Jester to the President.

After various attempts at politically-charged piano tunes and scathing Letters to the Editor, R.A. soon settled on his bread-and-butter, riding around like a idiot on his handcrafted Silver Dollar Unicycle. Having never bothered to learn juggling, R.A. would simply wave his hands about in a somewhat carefree fashion, using a sort of proto-juggling mime. More often than not, his act consisted entirely of his rolling, fake-juggling antics, all set to the “Benny Hill” theme for maximum comic effect.

Universally reviled, R.A. nonetheless lived a successful life. His show ran for 34 consectutive years as government red tape constantly delayed his dismissal and his multiple appearances in tear-jerking melodramas (The Good Doctor Adams Who Made Laughter from Tears; Good Morning, French Indochina!) gained him new fans, while simultaneously alienating his old ones.

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Phillip Albertson Lion Tamer
A consummate ladies’ man and clotheshorse, P.A. was often seen gadding about town, gold watch on a chain and rohypnol in his pocket. He is seen in this etching, posing for an etching while asking the artist’s assistant if she would like to come see his etching as soon as it is finished and hanging in his bungalow.

Blessed with a smooth tongue, a full head of hair and an honorary doctorate from the University of Phoenix Online, P.A. tore through the fairer sex of Upper Illinois, leaving illegitimate children and bounced checks in his wake.

During his declining years, P.A. began to take stock of his life. As the wolves of paternity bayed mercilessly (and metaphorically) outside his window, P.A. suffered a change of heart, when it went from “ticking away normally” to “not really working at all, is it.”

On his deathbed, P.A. asked his numerous bastard offspring and former paramours to gather close, at which point he delivered his final message to the world: “My will has never been proven legal. Good luck dealing with the state of Illinois and my next of kin, whom I alienated years ago.” His body was buried in the St. Mary Hospital parking lot, after being hurled from the 23rd story window.

His legacy lives on, however, as the tougher restrictions and faster moving wage garnishments have been entitled “Phillip’s Law,” which also requires those arrested for child support non-payment to post signs in their yard stating that they steal from children and single mothers and are required to stay at least 500 feet from bars, casinos, hotels and family planning clinics.

-CLT