Brrr!!! Gettin’ toward that blustery part of the year again, time to fire up the VCR. Er, DVD player. Er, Blu-Ray. Er, Smart Phone. Er, manufactured back of a dragonfly’s exoskeleton, depicting pristine, panoramic quality. Gather ‘round and cozy up, and don’t laugh too hard (hey, it ain’t freakin’ Jerky Boys).
This was the most bewildering movie to see just from the previews — because there’s John Travolta’s character and Nicholas Cage’s both exhibiting basically the same persona, making for a bizarre lack of contrast between characters. Then you discover, there’s a very interesting reason for this, one the idea of which was borne over some good ol’ fashion weed smoke too, if memory serves me correctly.
24 Stand by Me
An old classic almost just for the scenery in the Pacific Northwest alone, but also for the ostensible invention of the great pastime “mailbox baseball,” and definitely one of the most thrilling near-death experiences with train tracks ever recorded.
23 Rush Hour
The classic quotes come by the bushel here, from “Don’t ever touch a black man’s radio!” to the famous “Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth!”, to that awesome dancing scene to the song “War” by Edwin Starr. Someone must have just told him it would be funny if he would say this stuff. And then it was.
22 Almost Famous
Saved in large part by the laconic directness of Jason Lee and lines like “I’m gonna come out and say it: your looks have become a problem,” it does have the feather in its cap of being the work of an indisputable music lover Cameron Crowe, who also wrote various sections of the gripping Pearl Jam biography Pearl Jam Twenty.
21 Sling Blade
It’s disarming sometimes, I guess, to just sit back and think about what would compel someone to play a “retard,” a mentally challenged individual, in cinema, like a Forrest Gump, a Rain Man. Well here’s an interesting fact: this one was actually directed by the “star,” Billy Bob Thornton, and more importantly brims over with haunting sociological authenticity, such as that we can often feel more comfortable around excessively simple, guileless people, and that sometimes murder is the precocious thing to do.
20 Blues Brothers 2000
My God, the music! The music in this film is just so da** good (forgive me, I never curse because otherwise library computer labs will filter the site), and John Goodman even gets on the mic and shreds on vocals for “Looking for a Fox.” A personal favorite might be the not-quite-romantic Dan Aykroyd ditty “Cheaper to Keep Her,” as well as, strangely enough, the a capella prison yard ode in the opening scene.
19 Reservoir Dogs
Every bit as grim and grimy as its successor Pulp Fiction, Dogs pulls the reins it quite a bit in plot complexity, but has action, comedy and soundtracking eliteness popping out at its da**ed seams. Obviously the opening scene in the restaurant is beyond classic, but even then throughout the movie we’re reminded that senses of humor can be stupid and sadistic. Something about the way Mr. Pink says “Where’s the commode in here? I gotta take a squirt” is funny to me, so I think something might be wrong with me.
This is the cast of castaways, of almost-stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt from 3rd Rock from the Sun, and the semi-famous Zooey Deschanel and Don Cheadle, and they give it on the set like they’ve got a chip on their shoulders, like they’re waiting to get their full props as dramatists. They’re kids in a teen psych ward pulled off the mad streets of L.A., unleashing every bit the madness you’ll find out on those streets inside, their existence’s continuation best summed up by one of character Chad’s quips: “I’d be so fu**in’ dead without music.”
17 School of Rock
“Let’s. Rock. Let’s. Rock. Today.” Ain’t gotta tell me twice, Jackie! I am lucky enough to actually seen this man’s comedic prowess in person, having attended an unforgettable, jaw-dropping Beastie Boys show in 2008 which was inaugurated by the shiftily rewarding Tenacious D… and to this day I do not think any funny man commands crowds with more grip and hilarity.
16 12 Angry Men
This movie takes place, front to back, in one room. Wow, how’s that for low-budget? It’s the depiction of a jury in deliberation, with no windows, and one heck of a lot of script rehearsing. The end objective: find the real culprit in a murder. The means: very creative means, down to minute analysis of players’ unconscious mannerisms. The overall message: we hold society together by the seams, and it’s far from perfect, though this certainly belies how hard we sometimes try.
15 Office Space
The scenes of Peter’s two friends being stuck in traffic going to work are probably enough by themselves to cement this film as a classic: Michael Bolton rapping along to that gangsta song and then turning it down when he approaches that black guy, and then that Amir dude unleashing that random string of ill meshed cuss words (I’m pretty sure he says like “Mother sh**ter, piece of co**,” or something like that). Scenes with the two “Bob”’s are other personal favorites.
14 The Big Lebowski
To put in perspective how good Blues Brothers 2000 is, this is another film Goodman did around that time, and to be honest, it sort of eclipses this one, in a way, just for its sheer musical magnanimity. My favorite line happens to be when The Dude says “Does this place look like I’m married? The toilet seat is up!” No one ever seems to agree with me though.
13 Super Troopers
Possibly the closest to “Surrealist Comedy” we’ll ever get in mainstream American cinema, and what better way to render such things than with a dude fu**in’ a bear out in the woods! This is one of those movies that had so many funny lines they probably could have sold like two thirds of them to Judd Apatow or somebody, and still had a veritable classic on their hands. First Broken Lizard project Puddle Cruiser is thoroughly recommendable as well.
12 Mall Rats
This Kevin Smith comedy is probably the “wackiest” out of all of them by said director, Jason Lee again providing some inimitable laconic humor. When his girlfriend asks him why she can’t come in through the front door, instead of the basement window, a predicament which would get her passing Lee’s mom, he replies with a simple “What can I say. She just doesn’t like you.” The argument between the two guys about whether the cookie stand accounts part of the food court is also most full of moxie, in this blogger’s opinion.
11 Jackie Brown
You know, I can’t even spew you any lines from this movie, because you really have to just watch it within its entirety, front to back. Let me say though that there are certain times when I name this as my favorite by Tarrantino, and very few other actresses could have done what Pam Grier does here.
10 Single Video Theory
Ok, this is obviously going to peg me as a pretty big Pearl jam nut. Single Video Theory is comprised entirely of scenes of the band’s recording of precocious 1997 album Yield, and thereby contains alternate versions of all the songs, which was most to my liking. There’s one hilarious interview with Mike McCready in which he talks about certain times of being scared of “Ed,” and being like “IIII’m just gonna stand in the back for now.” 1990s slackerdom to the nth degree, no doubt.
9 Forrest Gump
Again it’s the archetypal lovable simpleton, every scene somehow juxtaposing the madness of an effacing, unforgiving world with a helpless heart of gold, confused, unintentionally humorous, and as vulnerable as he is lucky. Is the music in this film important? Without question. Is the fact that it takes place in the ‘60s important? Obviously. But no scene is more memorable, more beautifully gut-wrenching, than when Jenny is high on coke and standing right on the ledge overlooking that three-storey drop… and then we get “Love Her Madly” by The Doors as she’s “walkin’ out the door.”
8 Whip it
Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut about the roller derby certainly has the star-studded cast, with Jimmy Fallon and Juliette Lewis along for the ride, but it’s a couple teenage girls — Ellen Page and Marcia Gay Harden — who steal the show, one of them enacting a hilarious tactic to get the other one to barf into the toilet so they can hurry and get going back home, drunk.
I swear this dog is stupid.
6 O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Again, the music lover in me emerges prominently here, as I rank this one ahead of the excellent The Big Lebowski in the Coen Brothers genus. But look at it: the way they use music is absolutely FLAWLESS, down to the tunes utilized by the right wing, and for racist endeavors, actually being noticeably less exciting and cornier than those belted out by George Clooney and company in the studios. It treats as topics beginning phases of blues and gospel music in America, and actually doesn’t insult those enterprises, which is a feat almost unimaginable.
5 While We’re Young
“Do you want to see my tattoo?” asks Adam Horowitz’ character in an early scene in While We’re Young. “I got Staph infection, but it’s not the bad Staph!” Then, met with considerable umbrage before the idea of his physical approach, he persists “Come on! It’s not the BAD STAPH!” Amazingly, The New Yorker, based presumably in New York, reviewed this film without even realizing that Adam Horowitz is actually Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys in real life, and still made it seem desirable enough that I scoured my local libraries for a DVD copy, to eventually pore over it three or so times, straight through. Ben Stiller’s a knockout in it, but Amanda Seyfried steals the show in a great denouement toward the end. Just watch.
4 Scarface (1983)
I think the closest I’ve ever come to pulling out an AK-47 and blasting someone was when this chick came in and started talking while my roommates and I were watching this one. How she managed to talk over it is beyond me. But look at this: the Al Pacino version is actually a REMAKE, yet it was apparently WRITTEN by Oliver Stone. I could easily see a processional of MAFIA bloodletting ensuing from this fiasco.
Just gimme my copy of Clerks, and just gimme my bag of weed. This was basically my mantra in high school. Life for these people was simple: just get through the day. Ok, it wasn’t simple: Dante’s getting sued by parents of a girl who bought cigarettes from the other guy, a dude dies jerking off in the bathroom, and he becomes the victim of possibly the most spirited “FA**OT” expletive courtesy of the one and only Jason Muse, here rendered rogue drug dealer out front of the store. A favorite line of mine personally is when Jay sees somebody off to the side (whom mind you you don’t see, as the film was shot on 12 grand), and charms the guy by telling his friend Silent Bob “Tonight we’re gonna go to this party and we’re gonna rip out his fu**in’ soul!”
2 Pulp Fiction
To me, this movie changed cinema forever. It has yet to even come close to being surpassed in the way of violent, twisted carnage paired with quirky human commentary. The killer cast does a knockout job on every scene. It made Ving Rhames famous, who otherwise threatens to mire in cultural obscurity. It’s so cool it almost makes me forget about those awful “What’s in your wallet” commercials with Samuel L. Jackson. Because you REMEMBER his wallet in this one: “Bad mother fu**er.” A lot of people turn to the discussion about Amsterdam as some of the best exchange… eh, I’ll go for Harvey Keitel’s character, after they tell him they live in Englewood, or whatever: “It’s your future! I see… a cab ride!”
1 The Royal Tenenbaums
Oh, that’s good Sarah Silverman. Yeah, you make fun of Gwyneth Paltrow. This is what you do for a living. Well, I dare you to in a thousand years give us a cinematic achievement one tenth of what she does here: from the bizarrely monotonous manner in her voice when promiscuous lover crashes into her house, to the look she gives her Mom when she hears that Chas is moving back in and she want to too, to obviously, all her exchanges with Royal, her Dad. He’s classic too: “Can’t someone be a sh** their whole lives and then repent? I think people wanna hear that!”/“Do they?” They sure do, guys.