Wednesday, February 28, 2007


The following conversation was held one week ago in response to B. McC's response to my listing of Crash as one of my 5 movies that just missed the cut (in which he referred to both All Quiet on the Western Front and The Best Years of our Lives as "unwatchable")

--E-mail from B. MacK "Unwatchable?"
The only thing that's unwatchable is your face...okay that insult sucks, but still.

I just saw your response to one of my posts, and rather than argue with a post of yours (because I can't think of anything to argue with) I'll defend my own selections.

1st--No, we didn't see Crash together. And I think you're wrong, I think many people will remember Crash in twenty years, not for being groundbreaking (and for the record, there really are only about 30 movies that are groundbreaking and good, not everything can be a new and exciting form), but, as I said, because we like to look back at where we have been in terms of racial relations, I don't think that Guess Who's Coming to Dinner is groundbreaking either, but what makes it stick is the subject matter, and great performances from three incredible actors, Crash doesn't have three great performances, to be fair it has about two above average ones (Dillon and Cheadle) and three or four middling to above middling ones (Ludacris (god that's embarrassing to write), Terrence Howard, Sandra Bullock).

2ndly-- "All Quiet on the Western Front and The Best Years of Our Lives, are both unwatchable." What are you on? I love those movies. They aren't above 85 on my list, but they are on my list. I think they are, by far, among the best war movies I've seen. Platoon is better, yes, so is Saving Private Ryan and Patton is excellent. But at least All Quiet and the Best Years have some middle ground to claim, they aren't ham fisted odes to the glory of the soldier, they're often ham-fisted odes to the pains of the soldier, yes, but the moments of greatest tenderness (I'm thinking here of Myrna Loy's speech in "Best Years") more than make up for the overwrought sentimentality (and to be fair, when isn't Hollywood sentimentality overwrought?) (I'm mostly shocked because I would classify The Postman as unwatchable, I would classify Reindeer Games as unwatchable. All Quiet and Best Years of our Lives aren't superb, but they certainly aren't unwatchable)

Finally--As per your last question to me: "Hasn't Hollywood made 85 better than above average movies?" Yes, but not 85 better than above average movies that last. Do you think anyone in 10 years is going to remember In the Company of Men besides me? Do you think anyone does remember In the Company of Men besides me? Thank you for Smoking? Playing by Heart? 6 Degrees of Separation? Bamboozled (despite the craptastic Damon Wayans)? What's up Doc? There are these movies. These good, lovable, but in no way lasting movies. Perhaps my intial list was playing things a little too safely, but if one of the things we're thinking about is enjoyablity for the populace at large, I'm not so sure I've got a whole lot of movies to add on.

So perhaps I would do well to rephrase this tirade in terms of a question. At what point does a movie that you like, really, really like, become better than a movie that is embraced, adored and cited as a golden example of fine film making by 75% of the rest of the world. As a demonstration of this question Princess Bride V.s. Some Like it Hot: A movie we both love, versus a movie we both feel is vastly overrated. A movie that already has lasted 20 years among people who see it and love it versus a movie that has lasted 60 years on reputation alone. Any thoughts? (besides the fact that I'm a big tool who should be working on his lesson plans instead of opining on what is and is not Unwatchable?)

Chat transcript from the same morning--
9:54 AM me: See my e-mail punk?
9:55 AM Brent: yeah, i'm just starting to read it. this's the kind of fiery, hate-filled response we need on the actual blog
me: I aim to be fiery and hate-filled.
9:57 AM Brent: okay, just finished reading your email
(you should post it on the site, by the way, if only to show that we're reading and responding to this stuff.)
9:58 AM anyway, as for unwatchableness--i don't know, movies with egregious sentimentality just bore me to no end. i'd rather even watch out-and-out bad movies, i think.
9:59 AM me: Really?
Well...I can see that.
I suppose for me sentimentality isn't as much a fault as gratuitous lionizing.
10:00 AM Tears over cheers (I was going to right tears over flags, but I thought I should go for the rhyme).
Brent: but, yeah, i don't know about the list. i mean, how can i make a list that's the 100 greatest movies of all time and not include the 100 movies i like best? what would be the point of doing it any other way? any other way, you just go, "well, everyone seems to like 2001: a space odyssey and it's endured for forty years. let's put that around number three." you know?
10:01 AM i mean, this list HAS to be subjective--not based on reputation. and, yes, "tears over cheers" is much better. always go for the rhyme!
me: I can see that. I just wonder about my own taste in these sorts of things.
10:02 AM I like Playing by heart. A movie that is not enjoyed by anyone other than me and one ex-girlfriend. What the hell do you do with that?
Brent: i think you've got pretty great taste
i think i do too
and even if we don't, if we're not willing to stick up for movies we like better than other movies, what're we doing?
10:03 AM then every movie you watch, you're just going, "i like this, yeah, but i'd better see what roger ebert or joel siegel said about it before i can fully enjoy it."
10:04 AM me: Fair point.
I can agree to that in terms of list making
After all, it's not like this is being seen by anyone other than us, now is it?
Brent: right, exactly. i think two and ONLY two people are reading this blog
10:06 AM i think the reason that critics' lists are useful is that they give you a starting point. if 98 percent of critics on rotten tomatoes like a movie, you at least know that movie probably won't suck. and, with very few exceptions, if a movie made afi's list of the 400 greatest american movies, you know it probably won't suck either.
10:07 AM (i will concede, as long as we're talking about the blog, that "all quiet on the western front" isn't unwatchable. long stretches of it are actually pretty great
10:08 AM i couldn't get through "the best years of our lives," though, i really couldn't
me: You just don't know the value of Myrna Loy do you?
Just fast forward through the stuff with young people.
Brent: no, i do, i do. and i know she's from montana and all that stuff.
me: It's all about Myrna and Fred Marsch.
Brent: it's just that i had to sift through so much nonsense to get to her
10:09 AM me: Fast forward, it's like reading the action of Scarlett Letter and nothing about "the custom's house."
Brent: i also watched it right around the time i'd watched both "mrs. miniver" and "how green was my valley," so i was feeling pretty pessimistic about the film industry as a whole
me: That would do it to you, yeah.
Give it another try and avoid the younguns.
10:10 AM Brent: have you seen those movies? now those movies, those movies are unbearable
me: I think I made it through 10 minutes of How Green was My Valley.
That was enough.
Brent: i will. i'll give it another try. that's how much faith i have in your putatively bad taste
me: I've got to go teach "To the Virgins is to make much of Time"
Thank you for trusting my putatively bad taste.
Brent: sounds hot
me: It's nice to know you'v egot friends.
10:11 AM Brent: i wish i could teach my class about virgins
me: I'm pretty sure my teaching will involve surviving the gales of giggles from 11th grade boys.
But you don't have any virgins left is that what you're saying?
Brent: precisely
me: I will include more of my favorites and less of the stuff I grudgingly let on.
But just know that it will include a Jason Lee movie.
10:12 AM Brent: that's totally cool. i'll have some dubious stuff, too, plenty of it
if they were american, i'd probably include three pink panthers
me: I've got the Lion in Winter based on Katherine Hepburn alone.
Brent: i've never seen it all the way through
10:13 AM just bits here and there
me: Peter O'Toole baby! Peter O'Toole.

And on that note...Peter O'Toole to all y'all fools.

The Rube

Sunday, February 18, 2007



5 & 5

5 Near Misses

Fight Club--If there were a college-guy-pseudo-philosophical-film-institute out there, you’d be looking at a shoe-in for the top ten. Dark, haunting, with stellar performances from Ed Norton and Brad Pitt it is a fascinating look at the seriously scary undercurrent of violence in young men today.

Crash--It’s not a great film, nothing that waffles as ridiculously as this film does can be, but it’s more than a morality tale about racism. It’s a reflection of contemporary culture that may be as relevant in the future as Do the Right Thing, Jungle Fever and Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? are now (though with much less nuance and groundbreaking film techniques).

From Here to Eternity-- Two great love stories and Frank Sinatra in the arch-type forming romantic-comedy-best-friend role are nice. But for god’s sake, did you really need three hours?

Groundhog Day--A touch of slapstick, a bit of black comedy, a lot of witty dialogue and Bill Murray in tour de force form. Best of all, it keeps a touch of reality, he still snarks at the people he helps. Only Andy McDowell’s woodiness stops it from real greatness.

Mutiny on the Bounty--Heavy handed, sure. But if you can watch this without getting pumped up for Clark Gable, you’re without a pulse. If you can explain why all Polynesians are white and speak in perfect English, you’re a genius.

Honorable Mention
Good night and Good Luck--a nice way to make a political statement (see Crucible, The)
The Usual Suspects--a knockout thriller with great Kevin Spacy
Dogma-A neat little morality play disguised as bathroom humor (or vice versa)
Memento-A nifty trick, a thrilling who dunnit, and tattoos apleanty.
5 Gladly Omitted
Rebel Without a Cause--One of my least favorite things about movies: the undying adoration of James Dean. This is held up as his masterpiece. But he’s not the title character, and what’s more he’s so freaking whiny even as a teenager I wanted to smack him around.
Duck Soup--Perhaps it was funny its day, today the plot is ridiculously disjointed, the one-liners come off as surreal, and some of the jokes are flat out racist.

Giant--If you’re going to make a 3 hour long movie about life on a Texas oil ranch, you should have some compelling personalities. Instead this features: Rock Hudson, moaning, Elizabeth Taylor in her standard, strong, yet sensitive debutante role, and James Dean doing the only thing he ever does in movies: pout.
Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind--A masterpiece of special effects magic? There for two sequences with the spaceship, and they aren’t even impressive compared to others of the day. (The best part for me was when Richard Dryffeus’ wife left him, summarizing my feelings about the movie as a whole.)
2001: A Space Odyssey--As Brent has said, “I think you have to watch it on meth or LSD or something.” That something might just be crap. The whole move is crap. Crap acting. Crap story. Crap metaphysical bullshit at the end. Crap.
Dishonorable Mention
Philadelphia Story--okay concept, but, it’s crap,
Grease--pop crap.
Something about Mary--disgusting crap.
Last Tango in Paris--disgusting sexual crap.

The ground rules

Each member of this site will be trying (as best as they can during hours they should be spending studying, teaching or working) to set forward a list of the 100 best movies they know.
They were each given the list of 400 for review, and have the option of including up to 10 personal selections that AFI forgot in order to make room for Grease.

But rather than starting off with the full list, we're going to start with 10 movies that didn't make the grade. 5 we love, and 5 we absolutely can't stand.


Monday, February 05, 2007

The Gang

For those who don't know, here's a little guide to the people who will be posting in this space in the coming days/weeks/months/nanoseconds.

"Edemame"--The ex-striker turned Lawyer-to-be has a long track record of performance both on the pitch, in the classroom, and on the stage. Unfortunately, this blog is neither the pitch, nor the classroom, nor the stage, and his writing is likely to be peppered with both angry shouts at drunken Bears fans near his Chicago apartment and Aaron Sorkin references.
("It was oregano Dave, it was a dime bag worth of oregano.")

"Petercrouchgeneticanomolies"--Months ahead of his time, the poet/critic spotted what no one else did years before last year's world cup: "Peter Crouch really isn't very good" (dorm room conversation with a rabid Liverpool fan, 2005). He has already spotted a number of things about this year's AFI list: "These people are idiots." (A reference to the inclusion of Spider-Man 2 and There's Something About Mary in the 400 potential nominees) Count on more sterling insight in the time ahead.

"Likethesolid"--After being sequestered in such faraway places as Martinique; Hall, Montana; and San Francisco, California, The solidest of solids has emerged from hiding to dispense her wisdom upon the world. Ever the globetrotter, her comments will come interspersed with insights into the world around her and pleas for people to buy tours from her San Francisco educational vacation company.

"Montannie 37"--Straight out of the mean streets of Potomac, MT and Mussoorie, INDIA (no, cool abbreviation to be had there) "Montannie 37" knows a thing or two about movies. They are entertaining and compressed into frames of film. She actually knows more than that, but will need to educate young minds about the wonders of Beethoven, Bach and Brahms before focusing on the wonders of Sandler, Spade and Schnieder.

"AceCClax6"--The first newbie to post, AceCClax6 is a bad mother...oh, I'm sorry I'll shut my mouth. In the wake of yesterday's Super Bowl you may wish to revisit his post regarding the pointlessness of life around Chicago Bears fans (or maybe not, if you're a Chicago Bears fan/player/owner/cheerleader/hot dog vendor, see the January Posts under: "DAAAA Bears: Aw, who cares.") An aspiring actor, he is sure to include critiques of the fine work turned in by the luminaries on his 100 list, and more than a few comments about how even Bette Davis could be a better quarterback than Rex Grossman.

"Ben MacKenzie"--One heck of a pseudiddlyudonym

Now that you know our players, we hope you enjoy our game/pointless blatherings into the ether.


A complete waste of time

No, not my personal life. Below is the American Film Institute's latest foray into MEGA LISTS! Ten years after their first "100 Years" Series, they are back with 400 more candidates for the new list (much like the British Film Institute).

Given my natural predilection for listing things, I am reviving the long dormant Montana Hooligans' Debate Center for a good ol' fashioned throw down over your 100 favorite movies of all time (as selected from the list below plus a maximum of 10 movies of your own choosing). Your old favorites, "edemame" and "petercrouchgeneticanomalies," are back and I'll be introducing the rest of the crew very soon. So stay tuned for something that matters not at all.

To see the list in it's entirety with synopses and featured casts, click on the AFI link below and sign up to be an AFI member. Or be a lazy moog, and read the list I painstakingly copied out for you here.

More soon.

--The Rube

P.s. I apologize in advance for the length of the post below, try as I might I could not put more than one title on a line.

The List

Ace in the Hole
Adams Rib
Adventures of Robin Hood, The
Affair to Remember, An
African Queen, The
All About Eve
All Quiet on the Western Front
All That Jazz
All the King's Men
All the President's Men
American Beauty
American Graffitti
American in Paris, An
Annie Hall
Apartment, The
Apocolypse Now
Appollo 13
As Good as it Gets
Atlantic City
Austin Powers
Aviator, The
Awful Truth, The
Back to the Future
Bandwagon, The
Bank Dick, The
Beau Geste
Beautiful Mind, A
Beauty and the Beast
Being John Malkovich
Ben-Hur (26)
Ben-Hur (59)
Best Years of our Lives, The
Big Chill, The
Big Parade, The
Big Sleep, The
Birds, The
Birth of a Nation, The
Blackboard Jungle
Blade Runner
Blazing Saddles
Blue Velvet
Bonnie & Clyde
Boogie Nights
Born on the Fourth of July
Boyz in the Hood
Breakfast at Tiffany's
Breakfast Club, The
Breaking Away
Bridge on the River Kwai
Bringing up Baby
Broadcast News
Brokeback Mountain
Broken Blossoms
Bull Durham
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Cabin in the Sky
Cat Ballou
Cat People
Chariots of Fire
Cheat, The
Christmas Story, A
Citizen Kane
City Lights
Clockwork Orange, A
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Color Purple, The
Coming Home
Conversation, The
Cool Hand Luke
Crowd, The
Dances with Wolves
Day the Earth Stood Still, The
Days of Heaven
Days of Wine and Roses
Dead Poets Society
Deer Hunter, The
Defiant Ones, The
Destry Rides Again
Diary of Anne Frank, The
Die Hard
Dirty Harry
Do the Right Thing
Doctor Zhivago
Dog Day Afternoon
Double Indemnity
Dr. Strangelove
Driving Miss Daisy
Duck Soup
Easy Rider
Empire Strikes Back, The
English Patient, The
Erin Brokovich
Eternal Sunshine on the Spotless Mind
Exorcist, The
Face in the Crowd, A
Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Fatal Attraction
Ferris Bueller's Day Off
Field of Dreams
Fight Club
Finding Nemo
Five Easy Pieces
Force of Evil
Forrest Gump
42nd Street
Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse, The
French Connection, The
Freshman, The
From Here to Eternity
Funny Girl
General, The
Gentleman's Agreement
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Godfather, The
Godfather Part II, The
Going My Way
Gold Rush, The
Gone with the Wind
Good Night, and Good Luck
Good Will Hunting
Goodbye Mr. Chips
Graduate, The
Grand Hotel
Grapes of Wrath, The
Great Dictator, The
Great Escape, The
Groundhog Day
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner
Gun Crazy
Gunga Din
Harold and Maude
Harry Potter (Azkaban)
High Noon
His Girl Friday
Hotel Rwanda
Hours, The
How Green Was My Valley
Hustler, The
I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang
In the Heat of the Night
Insider, The
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
It Happened One Night
It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World
It's a Wondeful Life
Jazz Singer, The
Jerry Maguire
Jurassic Park
Kid, The
Killing Fields, The
King and I, the
King Kong
King of Comedy, The
Kramer Vs. Kramer
L.A. Confidential
Lady Eve, The
Last Emperor, The
Last Picture Show, The
Last Tango in Paris
Lawrence of Arabia
Life of Emile Zola
Lion King, The
Little Caesar
Little Foxes
Longest Day, The
LOTR (Fellowship)
LOTR (Towers)
LOTR (Return)
Lost Horizon
Lost in Translation
Lost Weekend, The
Love Story
Magnificent Ambersons, The
Maltese Falcon, The
Man for all Seasons, A
Man who Would be King, The
Manchurian Candiate, The
Mary Poppins
Matrix, The
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
Mean Streets
Meet Me in St. Louis
Midnight Cowboy
Mildred Pierce
Million Dollar Baby
Miracle of Morgan's Creek, The
Miracle on 34th Street
Modern Times
Moulin Rouge!
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Mrs. Miniver
Mutiny on the Bounty
My Darling Clementine
My Fair Lady
My Man Godfrey
Mystic River
National Lampoon's Animal House
Night at the Opera, A
Night of the Hunter, The
Night of the Living Dead
North By Northwest
Now, Voyager
On Golden Pond
On the Waterfront
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Ordinary People
Out of Africa
Out of the Past
Outlaw Josey Wales, The
Ox-Bow Incident, The
Paths of Glory
Phantom of the Opera, The
Philadelphia Story, The
Pillow Talk
Pirates of the Caribbean
Place in the Sun, A
Planet of the Apes, The
Poor Little Rich Girl, The
Porgy and Bess
Postman Always Rings Twice, The
Pride of the Yankees, The
Producers, The
Public Enemy, The
Pulp Fiction
Queen Christina
Quiet Man, The
Raging Bull
Raiders of the Lost Ark, The
Rain Man
Raisin in the Sun, A
Rear Window
Rebel Without a Cause
Red River
Requiem for a Dream
Return of the Secaucus 7
Right Stuff, The
Risky Business
Road to Morocco
Rocky Horror Picture Show, The
Roman Holiday
Rosemary's Baby
Safety Last
Saturday Night Fever
Saving Private Ryan
Scarface: The Shame of a Nation
Scarlet Empress, The
Schindler's List
Searchers, The
Sense and Sensibility
Sergeant York
Sex, Lies and Videotape
Shadow of a Doubt
Shakespeare in Love
Shawshank Redemption, The
She Done Him Wrong
Sherlock Jr.
Shining, The
Silence of the Lambs, The
Singin' in the Rain
Sixth Sense, The
Sleepless in Seattle
Snow White and the 7 Dwarves
Some Like it Hot
Sons of the Desert
Sophie's Choice
Sound of Music, The
Spider-Man 2
Spleandor in the Grass
Stalag 17
Stand By Me
Star is Born, A
Star Wars
Sting, The
Stormy Weather
Stranger than Paradise
Strangers on a Train
Streetcar Named Desire, A
Sullivan's Travels
Sunset Blvd.
Sweet Smell of Success, The
Swing Time
Taxi Driver
Ten Commandments, The
Terminator 2
Terms of Endearment
Thelma & Louise
There's Something About Mary
Thief of Bagdad, The
Thin Man, The
Thing from Another World, The
Third Man, The
This is Spinal Tap
Three Kings
To Be or Not To Be
To Have and Have Not
To Kill a Mockingbird
Top Hat
Touch of Evil
Toy Story
Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The
Trouble in Paradise
12 Angry Men
Twelve O'Clock High
2001: A Space Odyssey
Usual Suspects, The
Way We Were, The
West Side Story
Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
When Harry Met Sally…
White Heat
Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf?
Wild Bunch, The
Winchester '73
Wind, The
Wizard of Oz, The
Woman of the Year
Woman Under the Influence, A
Wuthering Heights
Yankee Doodle Dandy
You Can't Take it With You
Young Frankenstein
Young Mr. Lincoln