“Killed anyone today? – The day ain’t over yet…”

I had no idea who Jack Palance was.

What started out as another simple Billy Crystal comedy became something with a bigger heart than most.  It almost lost me in the first fifteen, and then we met Curly.

He had presence like “The Duke” in all those movies I grew up watching.  He walked on screen and every character knew to stay on his good side…behind him.

I remember watching and laughing with my mother and father.

The premise is about a trio of late-thirty-somethings that take Man-cation adventures together once a year.  They start running from the bulls.  The majority of the story takes place on their latest venture, a cattle drive across the the plains of the American West.

My dad kept saying, “That rancher’s a genius.  He got those idiots to pay him to drive his cattle for him.”

idiots

Yes, that’s what my father took away from that movie…and he was right.

The movie has a multitude of great laughs.  There’s some slapstick, there’s some sarcasm (it is a Billy Crystal movie after all), and there is plenty of great one liners.  Palance steals the show and has three great ones.

I found that the majority of the greatness of the movie was the writing of the conversations that were had between the three men: Crystal, Bruno Kirby, and Daniel Stern.  The chemistry between these three men was fantastic and it felt like they were truly friends for the last twenty years.  They rib each other, they know each other’s tendencies, and in the end, they are always there for each other as best friends–that are like brothers–are.

I remember feeling that the movie was going to be pretty predictable, and for the most part it is, but they did manage to throw some curve balls along the way, some of them quite tragic…not “sad” tragic, but tragic in the sense that, “Damn, that was short…I can’t laugh at him anymore.”

I wanted to find more Palance movies.  My mom and dad seemed to know who he was.  I remember my mom telling me that he was known for being a villain.  He appeared to have a bit of villainess in him on the surface for Curly, but in the end, he was just a good “man’s man” that wanted to help people become better at driving cattle.

There is no profound ending and there is some “campy action” that seems out of place for plot-device-sake, but the earlier comedy and interactions make up for it.  If you need a good laugh and you don’t want to spend too much time delving into and analyzing what the auteur was trying to say, try out “The City Slickers.”

The early 90s were known for making a bunch of films with a good laugh.

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

“I’m having a thought. Oh, yes. Oh, yes. I’m gonna have a thought. It’s coming… It’s gone.”

I have a confession.  I think the Oscars are bullshit and they were put on this earth for two reasons.  One, to make really rich people feel like they’ve accomplished even more in their lives. Two, to ignite a fire of rage and debate in all of us.

I used to think the Academy Awards meant something.  I mean, it was peers determining which of them had the best performance, directing, writing, picture, etc.  They should know, right?  They’re the professionals.  Then you go back and look at the past winners over time and realize that the “true” winners with lasting power were never picked.

I ramble on…

1990 was an amazing year for film:

Goodfellas” (I’ll get to this one down the road…)

Home Alone” (Thank you John Hughes)

Edward Scissorhands

Pretty Woman

Awakenings

Misery

Ghost

Lord of the Flies

Miller’s Crossing

I didn’t even list the ones I’ve already written about.  Trust me, there are plenty.  But…some things I cannot understand.  How did “Dick Tracy” get left out of the best picture mix…?  How did Al Pacino win for “Scent of a Woman,” but get stiffed for his role as Big Boy Caprice in “Dick Tracy?”  Rhetorical really…but I continue to ponder…

To my mind, “Dick Tracy” is the most underrated “comic book” movie of all time.  I did not say it was the best.  I said it was the most underrated.  You know, the one that is G-R-E-A-T great, but you always forget about it when you are thinking about Superman, Batman, Captain America, Spiderman, Iron Man, etc.

Warren Beatty’s vision was a marvel (pun/jab intended) and deserves all the credit that has been thrown it’s way–and more–over the years.

It was visually stunning (throughout every frame).  It was perfectly cast, had a great script, and stayed true to the source material.  I don’t know if it is true, but in my mind, I like to believe that when Warren was a child he grew up reading Dick Tracy just like I grew up reading about Wolverine and Gambit.  He had to.  The attention to detail was incredible.  The lighting, the costumes, the makeup, the sets, the props…it truly was a world that existed in the pictures of a comic book.

The characters were all larger than life and the photos I’ve added don’t display a quarter of all of the great ones.

“Dick Tracy” was a tricky movie for my mom.  It was rated PG.  I was old enough to watch it.  I had seen way worse in terms of violence and gore at that point in my life…but this picture had one thing in it that my mother had a hard time with.

MADONNA

Yes.  My mother is not a fan of Madonna.  She was a very “controversial” figure in the 80s. I grew up in a small conservative town…Madonna wasn’t very popular to anyone over 30 in  Blackfoot, ID in 1990.  She was skeptical and encouraged me not to watch it, but she relented.  She, however, refused to watch it with me.

Her loss.

Forget about the technical aspects.  We all know the makeup, costumes, lighting, sets, etc. were amazing.  The performance by Al Pacino is the glue that keeps this picture rolling.  Has there ever been a character that is so dangerous in one second and hilarious in the next?  He boogied with Madonna as Breathless Mahoney, which is meant to be a funny scene…but as you watch the scene unfold, you know that Big Boy Caprice is unpredictable and could snap and break her neck for singing out of key if he felt like it.

There is drama, suspense, humor, action, and a little romance too.  I feel that it is a movie that deserves to be in my top 10 list, but I never count it among those.  It’s probably that guilt from enjoying a movie so much that I know my mother didn’t want me to ever see.

Totally worth it…

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

“My 350-pound babysitter would be chasing me for the half-eaten pastrami sandwich I stole from her.”

For those of you that have been loyal readers over the years, you’re aware that I like to talk about firsts.

Flatliners” was the first movie in which I invited upperclassmen friends over to watch at my house.  I was a soccer player my entire life.  I was fortunate enough to make the varsity soccer team as a freshman.  I became friends with a lot of people older than me because of that.  I had many birthday parties to this point in which I invited a lot of my friends over, but they were always my age or younger.  These were older guys that I really wanted to impress with my movie taste.

I was someone that had already seen the film and enjoyed it.  My “older” friends had not.  I brought them over to meet my family, drink Mountain Dew, and watch it on VHS.

I know:  “Flatliners?”

You might ask that, but at the time it was kind of the perfect movie.  Interesting, suspenseful, not too scary but scary enough, and there was a ton of old and young talent in that film:

Julia of course (I think she was in every movie in the 90s after “Pretty Woman“), Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, William “Billy” Baldwin, and Oliver Platt.  Everyone knew Julia at the time, Kiefer was “Donald’s son,” Billy was “Alec‘s little brother” (still is, quite frankly), Kevin Bacon was…well Kevin Bacon (old, well established talent), and Oliver Platt was, “the 90s token, witty, chubby guy.”

The premise: A number of med students come up with this idea of forcing themselves into a flatline state (really, just killing each other), in which they are under for a short amount of time before being revived again.

The thing that I thought was cool about this was, in theory, you could conduct this type of experiment.  They were in a setting in which all of the necessary medical equipment was available and many people have died and been revived in such a manner.

The movement in the story comes when the members that were flatlined start to see the karma of their past looking for a paycheck in the form of the people that they had wronged.

Again, for those that have yet to see this movie, I don’t want to be the one to spoil the details.  Just know that there are moments of hilarity amidst an environment that is quite dark and disturbing.

I remember being very thankful for this movie.  It helped me show people that I knew what I was talking about when I would recommend a movie.  My friends loved it.  There were questions afterward that couldn’t be explained (I remember the director using cyclists in a number of different shots)…there was something about the sound of a group of cyclists riding in the dark of night that added to the eerie…

My friend asked me, “What’s with the cyclists?”

I remember being quick on my feet and saying, “I think it is a metaphor for his soul gradually getting away from him.”

My friend nodded his head as he looked at me like I was Buddha.

I really think the director was trying to make his own atmosphere and the cyclists happened to be pretty cool (looking and sounding)…

I’m just glad I was able to impress.

 

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

“We all forget things. That’s what reminding is for.”

There was a “little” movie that you might’ve heard of in the early 90s called “Pretty Woman.”

…and a star was born.

Being a 13 year old boy, I had no interest in that film.  Mainly because at that point, my sister had a huge interest in it and I knew the kind of movies she loved when she was in high school: lame, comedy romance.  I avoided it…for a few years anyway…

Even though I had not seen it, pretty much every other person on the planet had, so there was no escaping it.  There were clips on “Entertainment Tonight,” trailers shown on every other television break, and trailers again whenever I went to a movie.  The scene that I remember is when Gere closes her hand in the jewelry box and she cries out her boisterous, yet feminine laugh.  I also remember seeing a scene of her singing in the bath tub to “Kiss” by Prince (RIP)…I remembered that because of the song.  She was America’s new sweetheart and she was not going away.

julia-kiss

Man, I sound like I wanted her to go away…I didn’t, I just wanted “Pretty Woman” to go away.  Which brings me to my very first Julia Roberts experience; and WOW-was-it unexpected.

I remember thinking that she was beautiful, yet she had this very honest, kind, and gentle quality about her.  She gave the impression that she could be talked to by anyone.  She wasn’t goofy like I had been made familiar with through all of “Pretty Woman‘s” advertising.

In “Sleeping with the Enemy,” Julia plays a very timid, kind, and gentle housewife that is the victim of an abusive husband played by Patrick Bergin in a very aggressive, haunting performance.

The great thing I remember about her performance was the fact that the audience is not witness to an actual case of physical abuse until the end of the first act; yet her unease makes us feel like Bergin is a pitbull, just waiting for a reason to lash out.  We find out that he is and before we do, we are as tense as Julia is.  That is because of Julia (although Bergin did help portraying a total psychopath).

This movie wasn’t just a basic woman escapes a monster through “the system.”  It is a clever psychological thriller that tells us what we need to know, when the writer felt we were ready to know it.

This is the part where I remind everyone that I would hate to give anything away.  Know this, the moment of truth is EXTREMELY satisfying.

Julia, like Denzel, was another “new” star, that we all wanted to see more of.  The rest of America knew that a little quicker than I did re: “Pretty Woman.” Just like I did with Denzel, I looked for prior movies and got excited for new ones with her.  I later found that Julia had already made a GREAT movie that just didn’t hit it too big unfortunately.  For those of you that have not seen “Mystic Pizza,” put it on your list.  It is a great coming-of-age story told through the eyes of teenage girls unlike any other.  Keep your eyes peeled for a very young and fresh Matt Damon.  If you blink, you’ll miss him.

She had a very minor role in “Steel Magnolias,” which I watched a number of years later as that was labeled another “sister” movie (cue gag noise). That is a sign of my immaturity, not that the film was bad.  I thoroughly enjoyed it later.

Julia made A LOT of different movies that I enjoyed over the next twenty years…but I can’t tell you all of them at once.  I have to write about something, after all.

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

“I want to hear yes.”

There are some movies that come to mind and it takes everything that I can not to smirk.  So I give in and I smirk.

This can be awkward when you’re in a dreary meeting at work, lose consciousness, and then smirk.  People begin to wonder if you’re not taking things seriously.

You can’t just say, “No, really, I was just thinking about ‘The Freshman‘.”

Now with a title–and response–like that, people start to wonder if they need to call the authorities and have them check in on you.

I can’t help but smirk and sometimes giggle when I think about this absolute, underrated, perfect comedy from 1990.

For starters, it has one of my huge 80s man crushes in it in Matthew Broderick.  Add Bruno Kirby, Penelope Ann Miller in one of her earliest roles, and who makes better facial expressions when they know the heats on than Jon Polito.  If you’re unfamiliar with Jon (we’re close, it’s a thing) you should check him out in any Coen Brothers movie Following “Miller’s Crossing circa 1990.  He is a regular of theirs and he can play uncomfortably comedic and a ruthless villain within the same scene; and we buy it.  He’s very underrated.  

Broderick is perfect casting for this role.  He is one of the greatest lovable loser actors of all time.  I have mentioned “WarGames‘” David and “Ladyhawke‘s” Gaston, there is also Eugene Morris Jerome from “Biloxi Blues and Clark Kellogg from “The Freshman” is no different.  With slapstick, it can be very easy to look fake or forced.  Broderick as Clark makes it look seamless and true.

Oh shit…

Did I forget to mention Brando?  WOW. Yes.  I just did that.  I also forgot to mention that he “unintentionally” intentionally reprises his role as Don Vito Corleone in his Carmine Sabatini.

brando-broderick-freshman

It’s only fair that one make a disclaimer here.  If you have not seen or are not a decent sized fan of the “Godfather” films; you won’t get a lot of the jokes.  That might be why so many people I have talked to over the years either love (deeply I might add) or dislike this movie.  It’s hard to enjoy this fresh with no perspective of the “Godfather” films as so much of that character (Don Vito) is important to this story.

People ask me often about my favorite actors.  It is an unfair question as there are so many.  Brando is in the top five easy.  His influence is too deep not to include him on such a list.  He proves it here for me with a rare comedic turn in this film.

For those of you that are familiar with my blog, you know how important comedy is to me as a genre.  It is the one I share the deepest respect for.  Drama comes with its challenges, but we can all agree that death from a character we’ve grown to love is dramatic.  There are so many different variations of comedy out there that being able to get one of them right that a large group of people enjoy is quite a feat.  Mel Brooks and Woody Allen are two very different kind of directors and comedians.  Both funny.  Both work. Completely different.  Some people like Brooks, some prefer Allen, some don’t like either, some like both…where am I going here?  Brando is known for his deep seriousness within each of his dramatic characters.  He would develop amazing backstories that would explain why the character might react in this way and use it.  It’s enough to drive directors crazy, which he was known for, but it also worked and brought forth some of the most passionate performances one could have in a lifetime.  He then turned around and made this witty comedic play on one of his most famous roles and hit the right notes.  Every moment that he is on screen, he understands exactly the impact he has to make with his humor, and gives it just the right amount.

….

Yes.  I’m smirking thinking about him as I write this.

If you haven’t seen the first two “Godfather” pictures that’s a shame.  Not just for the simple fact that they are “classic” movies by every definition.  I feel sorry for you in that you won’t be able to enjoy such a great comedy on each level awarded.  Yes, you can watch this movie fresh and still have a good laugh and enjoy a very well told story (it’s not just funny, the plot is clever as well); but there is a cloud of underlying winking from Brando, Broderick, and the rest of the players that you will miss out on.

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

“Sir, it’s tomato soup!”

It’s interesting what different generations assume as common knowledge.

Mom had rented a movie and I asked her about the title:

“What’s the “Memphis Belle?”

She looked at me, sideways.

I just threw her the “wuh?” arms and waited for a response.  I think she was too tired.  Her day job was cleaning houses and she would sometimes fit in two a day.  I think that was a double day.

She just said, “I don’t want to give too much away, you’ll just have to see it.”

You know I did.

I found out that it really is an underrated war picture for starters.  I’ve seen the movie twice.  This time with my mother when I was almost a freshman in high school and again when I was in college.

In my first viewing, I was bored with the first 20 minutes of the picture.  There was a lot of talking in big groups in rooms.  Then there was a party and I suppose we were supposed to familiarize ourselves with a few of the characters, but at my age, I found it boring.  In the second viewing, I had a higher appreciation for those opening scenes.

The real story starts when the Belle takes off.  You learn about the amount of men it takes to successfully drop one bomb.  Those ships were massive and carried a lot of heavy artillery.  I don’t think there was an angle that would be uncovered by a high calibre rifle.

b-12-bomber

You also learn how hard it is to accurately drop a bomb when given the chance, and that bombs sometimes, don’t “work.”

The gist of the story is that after 25 successful missions, the entire crew is able to go home, regardless if the war wants to cooperate or not.  We of course meet the members of the Belle between their 24th and 25th mission and then take the journey with them on the 25th.  The movie has quite a crew:

John Lithgow, David StrathairnSean AstinHarry Connick Jr.Billy ZaneMatthew ModineEric StoltzTate Donovan, and D.B. Sweeney to name a few.  

There is a lot of action, as you’d expect in a war picture, but it’s different…

For the most part, it’s claustrophobic. The majority of the movement happens “outside” of the bomber, and we can only see from each crew member’s point of view.  The enemy fighter planes are like sharks, circling in the air, in the frame for a split second and then gone, with each member trying to track it down with gunfire as they sweep around from different angles.  All the while firing at the bomber as well.

I count three laughs in the picture and a smirk.  There is one deep belly laugh that made it completely worth a view itself.

When I think about movies that attempt to make inorganic forms of transportation seem like another character, three come to mind instantly:

  1. The Millennium Falcon (this goes without saying for someone like me that grew up watching the trilogy a couple times in a row on summer Saturdays)
  2. The Delorean from Back to the Future, and
  3. The Memphis Belle

That’s the impact the belly of this monster made on me.  I’m sure that I am going to hear about it from a number of people, “What about the Orca from Jaws?” or “The VW Van on Little Miss Sunshine?”

Now you know my top 5…

I would hope that no one would mention Herby.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good Herby movie, but that car is actually “Disney Alive,” okay?  Different category entirely.

I am sure that there are others, the point being that the writers and director did a great job bringing that wonderful flying beast to life and I hold it as a valuable and worthy character. I’m afraid if I tell more, I’ll give too much away…and you know I don’t like doing that.  Just know that this great cast–including the Belle– makes the journey worth it.

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

“I’m the Party Pooper.”

Unexpected.

Not at first.

Like most of Arnold’s films, we start out with a pretty nice action set.  He is searching for a bad man.  We’ve seen enough of his films to know that the people he’s about to interact with are in for a southern ass whoopen.  Much like the “Terminator” movies, he struts through a room of villains–very nonchalant–pulls out a shotgun and starts firing.  The difference here, he’s not seen killing anyone…huh?

He shoots up some of the room and scenery and scares a lot of shady people off and no one dies.

Weird.

Again, unexpected.  He gets ahold of one of the shady characters and interrogates him there.  He is looking for a very bad man.  There was nothing worse than a villain on film in the late 80s and early 90s in America that was a drug dealer–unless there was a film with Nazis in it.

The snitch gives up some information that helps Detective John Kimble (Arnold) track a lead down to help him find Cullen Crisp.

Kimble gets assigned a new partner, Detective Phoebe O’Hara (Pamela Reed in a very brief and underrated comedic performance).  Of course Kimble is opposed to the assignment until he learns that the undercover op is as a kindergarten teacher.

Yes, “Kindergarten Cop.”  A very quoted movie and a great family comedy.

Phoebe is to be the Kindergarten teacher for a classroom of kids that may be the son of Crisp.  The detectives believe that Crisps’ ex love interest has changed her name, fled to a small town, become a teacher, and has a son in kindergarten.

After a fit of sudden illness, Kimble has to step in for Phoebe and fill in as the new Kindergarten teacher.

What could possibly go wrong?

Not the best first day, to say the least.  A lot of chaos, yelling, and crying.

arnold-kc

The appeal to the movie is definitely not the plot–very simple and predictable–the appeal comes completely from Arnold and his persona.  I feel that it was a VERY brave decision for him to take this project on…the only other person I would probably want to see do this would be Clint Eastwood circa 1985-1989 after “Sudden Impact” but before “Dead Pool.” Those huge “manly-men” personas give this delicate comedy that human touch that it needs as a tough guy is forced to become compassionate, organized, and vulnerable.

This “bull in a China shop” has to deal with a lot of interesting personalities that are his students.  Another allure is that the kids are not just backdrop and scenery.  The writers were very skilled at giving us a lot of dynamic child characters with very little lines and screen time.  Quite a feat.

There is eventually some drama, a bit of a romance with Crisps’ ex, and a decent suspense sequence at the films climax as Crisp and his bat-shit mother step into the frame; but the draw to this movie is the comedic sequences that Arnold is put through as a large man that has to learn how to be delicate with fresh young minds.  Not to mention some comedic moments from Linda Hunt as his principal Miss Schlowski.  I don’t think it was an accident that the director chose to surround our giant with small children and a very small statured boss too.

He has to be bigger than life..so that when he does have to come down out of the clouds and relate to people, it’s both challenging and charming.


——

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

“Ever get the feeling you’re being punished for your sins?”

Generally I try and pick feature images that do not give the post away.  I decided not to do that with this movie.  I’m writing about my favorite Robin Williams’ performance.  In the “Aladdin” post, I promised I would, and here it is.

The Fisher King” had a strong impact on me.  This was not the first movie that I saw that dealt with mental illness and loss, but for some reason, it is the one that I remember being affected by deeply.

Robin was not the only amazing performance in this movie.  The entire cast was great and brought this material to life.  Jeff Bridges plays Jack Lucas.  He’s a polarizing New York local radio talk show host.  He takes a call from a man that is sick in the head.  Jack could not know this, but Jack ends up giving some advice to the man and he decides to take a shotgun to a diner and murder some innocent people  and kill himself.  Getting news of this, Jack hangs up his microphone and turns to the bottle.

He lives with his girlfriend, Anne Napolitano, played by Mercedes Ruehl in an Oscar winning performance.  She is one of the most loyal, noble, and funny characters written in a movie.  The depth that Ruehl gives her will not go unnoticed.  This role could’ve been written off as another “quirky girlfriend” to the leading man, but the emotion and humanity that she delivers is very honest and powerful.  We see her plight, feel her pain, and laugh at her delivery.  She takes no prisoners and is the perfect foil for Jack when he starts to feel “too” sorry for himself.  One of the awards I actually agreed with–I rarely do.

mercedes-fisher

Jack ends up meeting Parry (Williams) and I’ll spare you the “meet cute” and the circumstances of their relationship, but know that Parry has become a homeless man that does not see the world through realistic eyes…so to speak.

Director Terry Gilliam created a movie that did everything.  There are moments of pure joy, laughter, and tragedy.  I found myself laughing, and then two scenes later I was shouting, “NO!” at the screen.

The brilliance within the picture is that we pity both of the protagonists.  Jack is obviously dealing with his demons, and Parry is anything but right in the head (for good reason and I will not spill it).

Parry is another lovable loser that makes us feel bad for laughing at him at times, given his mental health.  Jack’s transformation by the films end is one of the realist that I’ve seen from a character that deals with a “learning arc.”

Both men need each other. I think that Jack knows that fact from their first meeting, but there is a part of him that wants to resist what needs to be done, until he no longer has a choice.  Parry needs Jack to help him lead his way back from the dark hole that has become his life now.  It’s very powerful stuff, for a comedy.

I find that many of the great Robin films are difficult to classify.  He brings a level of comedy to most of his roles, even in films that are clearly tragedies.  The “Fisher King” is close to that tone.

I laughed, but as I reflect, I probably shouldn’t have laughed as hard as I did.  I hope that last note I made does not persuade you to miss this film.  That would definitely be a tragedy.

——

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.

Growing Up Movies…available on paperback.

I just wanted to let everyone know that Growing Up Movies…can be ordered on paperback NOW.

There were a few of you that had asked me if that was ever going to happen and I never thought it would, but I decided to give it a try.

The web address will take you to the CreateSpace eStore where you will have to register an eStore account if you’d like to get the book on paperback now…if you want to wait about 3-4 weeks, it should be available on Amazon and listed next to the Kindle version.  That is for Amazon and Amazon Europe.  I put it on Matchprice so if you purchase the paperback, you get the eBook for free as well.

Next up will be GET BACK, already available on Kindle.  I will make an announcement once that is available on paperback as well.

Below is the link for GET BACK on Kindle all over the world:

qr-image-relinks

rxe.me/9K35K2

Thank you all for reading!

——

Please join my newsletter #Clintington on Film Dope Sheet.