Monday, October 15, 2018

Facebook Film Foolishness Part 2

Click here for the explanation and the beginning of the list leading into…

That first year (1988) in college for the two of us marked the viewing of the next film.  After Thanksgiving break we got back early on Sunday.  Returning to school was always a little rough for me that first year, and in the lull before classes we decided to take in a movie.  Jesse and I teamed up with Brian and Tom, and the four of us walked down to the Troy movie house to catch They Live.  The John Carpenter soundtrack was catchy enough that we all snapped along with it.  One of us said, “Shhhh, you’ll bother the other people in the theater.”  However, one of those three other people quickly replied, “No, it’s OK. We’re snapping too!”  If the film only had the greatest fight scene in history and quotable Roddy Piper lines about bubble gum there’s a good chance it would have still made the list.  Its recognition was further assured by two items. One is this was the point I started to recognize John Carpenter’s name, realize how many of his films I enjoyed and started actively seeking them out. The second involves the insidious alien invasion plot, based not on violence and overt control, but on complacency and greed.  This is also when I noticed well-constructed science fiction short stories made many of my favorite films. I think it’s because there’s enough meat to them to give a bit of intellectual weight to the story, but they’re short enough to allow the movie to fill the rest of the space with bombast and bludgeoning, which films are a far better genre for than literature.

The next movie I found one night on a break from college. It was my small repayment for Dad finding the Greatest Film in the History of the Cinema.  While nothing could approach my favorite movie of all time, 1989’s C.H.U.D. II: Bud the C.H.U.D is a hoot and a half.  There’s some grossness, but it’s mostly all comedy.   Gerrit Graham as the equal parts menacing, lovelorn and goofball Bud takes point, Brian Robins and Bill Calvert lead the fight as the Eighties respectively  cool and nerdy heroes. The rest of the cast (particularly the C.H.U.D.s)  look to be having an infectiously good time along the way. However, it’s Robert Vaughn’s scenery chewing lunacy as Colonel Masters who’s quotes I work into “normal” conversations the most. (Including his pronunciation and cadence of BARBIE-queue.) I also have greeted many a meal with either, "Eat em up, eat em up, yum  yum yum!" or the simpler, "MEAT."  Of course at a fast food place it would be, "Bo-bby." The theme song is criminally catchy; I still find myself humming it often…and I’m pretty sure Tricia Leigh Fisher, playing a character both cooler and smarter than the heroes, is responsible for younger me having a thing for those Eighties one piece swimsuits that are revealing in TV approved yet unorthodox ways.  Any movie with an awesomely, and hysterically lethal toy poodle is worth multiple viewings.

The next three films I first saw on cable.  I considered making one of my rules that it had to be in the theater, but many movies seen that way had such an impact, they deserved status.  1991’s The Fisher King has the most unique spot on every single one of these lists, sub lists and aside references.  I am a fan of Monty Python in general, and Terry Gilliam’s other work.  Baron Munchausen was a contender for a few spots. I believe in the rewatchability of a movie when it becomes part of me.  Sharing it with others, looking for bits I missed and just reliving the experience are all natural thoughts.  I have seen The Fisher King exactly once.  It was amazingly well done, and deeply beautiful in many ways.   I like, and rewatch Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges, and Mercedes Ruehl in many films.  It’s not one those “Wow, that ending sucked and ruined it” things either. The ending is happy.  This movie emotionally wrecked me from beginning to end.  I’d like to see it again, but it was so powerful, every time I find it on TV or in a store, I haven’t been able to work up the energy and fortitude to watch it again.  Maybe someday.

For a quarter of a century, I was unshaken in my belief that I’d never find a stranger film than The Super Infra Man!  Then one Saturday morning in my late twenties, alone in my condo I experienced what I assumed was a television sized hallucination brought on by stress.  The clearly unreal images included Mr. T as the bearded lady conversing with a Bobcat Goldthwait voiced man with a sock puppet for a head.  There were also Rastafarian, Tommy gun armed eyeballs, a prison escape where over a dozen weird mutations dressed as milkmen, a board of directors transforming in to a giant living shoe, and Brooke Shields.  Naturally, I assumed I needed more sleep and the TV was never turned on.  Just in case, I followed the “airing again” notice and set the VCR before going to lie down again.  Later in the week, I became the proud holder of a recorded copy of 1993’s Freaked. (Planned title Hideous Mutant Freekz.) While Keanu Reeves went on to international action film stardom after playing Ted “Theodore” Logan, Alex Winter’s route to being a writer and director following his time as Bill S. Preston Esquire involved the creation, and starring as Ricky Coogan in what I am now certain is the strangest film I’ve ever seen.  Note:  In case it wasn’t weird enough, Reeves appeared uncredited as a favor to his former cast mate as Ortiz the Dog Boy.  It’s terrifying when reality is far more bizarre than anything my brain can generate.   Yes, I am a fan of the Bill and Ted films.  While they are very enjoyable, and do a spectacular job of Time Travel in a fixed time stream consistency, they don't quite reach "impact" level. (Edit- I was totally wrong about downplaying the Bill and Ted films.)

For another condo cable discovery I also missed the beginning, which was highly fortunate. I stopped flipping channels when I saw Jennifer Connelly, a natural reaction for someone whose roles have made her a geek crush for decades.  Since it hadn’t started too long before, I decided I could follow along with the rest of this “who done it?”  Following along is not something one should take for granted with this film.  1998’s Dark City cemented in my rather unusual head that my favorite kinds of mysteries are not “Who done it?” but “What is it?”  I urge anyone who wants to see this film to watch the director’s cut that doesn't have the studio narration in the beginning that spoils the whole film.  Following my lead of accidentally missing the opening is much harder to plan. I can’t say anything else without ruining it.  Alex Proyas’s movie looks like a noir detective story but packs in much cooler and mind bendier twists than the Matrix (And it filmed on many of the same sets.)

For the final, or at least most recent, film on the main list, the often George Awarded, but never detailed Mystery Men from 1999.   I feel like this film came out too early for its success window.  A fun, accurate, superhero joke would have done much better in recent times. Released a year before X-men, three years before Raimi’s Spider-man and nine years before the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, this fantastic superhero parody opened to a general public unfamiliar with the settings it was awesomely spoofing.  It was one of many movie nights used to escape particularly hot nights Up the Lake. After going with my non-comic book aligned cousin, who laughed most of the way through, but then reviewed it as "stupid," I returned with my family in less than a week.  I then quoted it regularly for the rest of the summer…and the rest of my life now that I think about it.  I do believe the Spleen presents the best telling of a superhero origin ever captured on film. Yes, this one gets bonus points for the Blue Raja's name being "Jeffrey."  Yes, I have on many occasions said, "The point is, your boy's a limey fork-flinger, Mother. Hard to swallow, I know, but there 'tis. Ha! What will the bridge club think?"  

The fact that Louise Lasser played and was credited as "Jeffrey's Mother' just like in Frankenhooker  would be a cool way to bring this film list thing full circle...if I was anywhere near finishing.

Anyone who knows me well. 
Or has talked to me for more than three minutes…

Should instantly realize there are movies that are completely ingrained in my psyche, yet did not make this list.  It’s all due to those rules.

For example, I saw Wayne’s World theatrically in 1992 repeatedly.  
The first time was with friends from RPI, then we went home with Brian for a weekend and saw it with his friends, next came a break when I saw it with my friends and my sister at home…plus another one somewhere I think. Yes we quoted it all the time.  I still use a Garth sounding, “Ow…I fell on my keys,” in less that relevant moments.  However, the impact on me didn’t come from the film, but from the college ritual of watching Saturday Night Live in groups.  Honestly, we quoted “Sprockets” far more often…”Touch my monkey!!!!” 

For the start of a parade of a great many more impactful movie examples, come back again next week.


longbow said...

Jennifer Connolly has been my age-appropriate crush for 35 years. is a top ten Simpsons line & reference

This NSFW tweet got me good last week,

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx for reading and sharing. In order.

1) The fact that she's kept picking geek related roles has helped immeasurably with that.

2) I think by this point the Simpsons has references to everything. Fun Fact, CHUD 2 started life as a sequel to "Return of the Living Dead" hence the lack of CHUDness to the creatures.

3) That's hysterical. Its amazing when a goofy B movie becomes more and more relevant over time. And a little horrifying.

Unknown said...

Oh my god Jeff, this was perfect, exactly what I needed! Thank you!!

Jeff McGinley said...

No problem, happy to help. Thanx for being a part of it.