Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rating Ratings

Brian Regan jokes about answering his nurse in the ER when she asks him to "rate his pain". He shrugs and says, "two enthusiastic thumbs up? Four stars?" There is a rating for everything now. If you want to buy a car you can look up safety ratings, if you want to stay in a hotel you can find out how many "stars" it is, and of course there are movie guide books of all kinds from Roger Ebert or Leonard Maltin to Bubba Joe's Favort Picher Shows (don't waste time Googling, I made it up for goodness sake!) Each has its own rating system from 1 star (*) to four stars (****) . They have their own ideas for the worst movies, too. Some just say "No stars". Some call them a "turkey" and others call them a "BOMB". If I had my own movie book I would call really bad movies "Donkey turd" or maybe "VOMIT". I've also thought about using names that denote banality and awfulness to describe my feelings for a crapfest I wasted an hour plus and a few bills on. For instance something like Benchwarmers, so bad it hurts to type it, I would give the rating "Hillary", or for Oprah's Beloved, like tiny shards of glass in the retina, I would give the rating "Bolton" (as in Michael Bolton). You could use "Affleck" or "Keanu", or for a very bold statement "Begala".

Rolling Stone apparently thought four stars wasn't enough to describe some "classic" albums so they kicked it up a notch to FIVE stars which I thought only applied to The Waldorf Astoria or Army generals. But, since Rolling Stone is run by pinko commies I doubt they would give General George S. Patton five stars. I don't think he was much of a dancer and if casting George C. Scott to play the General is any indication, his singing voice was probably awful! Plus he hated commies, so I'm guessing he probably would get 2 stars (**)- one for Sicily and the other for George C. Scott's Oscar.

I think I should give some examples of how I would rate stuff. Let's start simple with the albums of U2.

Boy- ****
October- ***1/2 (this is like saying I'm too timid to give it four stars but I liked it more than a "good" three stars. It's an easy voting for Zel Miller)
War- ****
The Unforgettable Fire- ***1/2
The Joshua Tree- ***** (hey, if Rolling Stone can, then so can I!)
Rattle and Hum- ****
Achtung Baby- *****
Zooropa- **1/2
Pop- ***
All That You Can't Leave Behind- ***1/2
How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb- ***1/2


carrots- **1/2
green beans- ***1/2
broccoli- ****
asparagus- **
(mashed) ****
(baked) ****
(steak fries) ***
(McDonald's fries) *****
squash- **
brussel sprouts- CELINE DION (just thought of that one)

Mary Poppins songs:

"Spoonful Of Sugar"- ****
"I Love To Laugh"- ***1/2
"Let's Go Fly a Kite"- ****
"Chim-Chim Charee"- *****
"Supercalifragilisticexpialadocious"- **1/2 (very overplayed and thus overrated)
"Feed The Birds"- **** (totally underrated if you think about it)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Top Ten Epic

For our last and final category here is AFI's list of the top ten films in the "Epic" genre (supposedly):

1. Lawrence of Arabia (predictably)
2. Ben-Hur (just)
3. Schindler's List (right)
4. Gone With The Wind (ok)
5. Spartacus (naturally)
6. Titanic (Do Whaaa?!!)
7. All Quiet on the Western Front (Really, an epic?)
8. Saving Private Ryan (good, but 8, and epic?)
9. Reds (Oh no they didn't)
10. The Ten Commandments (at number 10, ironically)

So I guess "War" films are epics then, well in that case where is Patton or The Longest Day or Apocalypse Now? I don't expect box-office swelling soccer moms to get that Titanic totally sucks but I would expect "experts" at the American Film Institute to get that! Geez, will justice never prevail? I know, I'm out of order... well, you're out of order, the whole movie voting system is out of order! I object strenously your honor! (I should have learned from Demi Moore that it doesn't work that way.)

Anyway, I can think of a few better epics than Reds or Titanic, like for instance Ghandi, or Braveheart or even Gladiator. Do you mean not one Harry Potter movie is good enough to make this list? Darn right, and besides that would be fantasy, moron! I just called myself a moron.

Well, looking at these AFI lists was fun and took up a lot of time we will never get back. At least that's more than you could say about the average Adam Sandler movie.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Top Ten Sports

Here is the AFI list:

1. Raging Bull
2. Rocky
3. The Pride of the Yankees
4. Hoosiers
5. Bull Durham
6. The Hustler
7. Caddyshack
8. Breaking Away
9. National Velvet
10. Jerry Maguire

Not too many surprises here except maybe Jerry Maguire which seems a bit more "inside sports" than actual sports, and besides any movie with the lines "you had me at hello" and "you complete me" should be disqualified from ANY top ten list and ESPECIALLY Sports (unless they are done as a joke as in the cinematic triumph A Night at the Roxbury)
I predicted Raging Bull would win this category and I still totally disagree. I recognize that there are some amazingly photographed and edited fight sequences in this movie but I bet the actual screentime of the boxing is less than Steven Seagal's screentime in Executive Decision...not really, just wanted to make sure you were awake. Anyway, I would classify Raging Bull as a dark, dramatic biopic about a boxer. It isn't a "sports" movie and to classify it as such is just as silly as calling Field of Dreams a biography of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson (well, maybe not quite that silly...)

What I don't get is why Sappy Maguire made the cut but Seabiscuit and Chariots of Fire did not. Rudy is another pretty decent sports flick without mention. What about Rocky 2, 3, 4 , 5 , 6 and Nightmare on Elm Street 7, 8 , 9 and what were we talking about again? Seriously though, if Raging Bull is a "sports" film then so is Champion with Kirk Douglas and The Set-Up with Robert Ryan. Since ESPN has turned Texas Hold 'em into a "sport" then The Cincinatti Kid should have been considered. And don't even get me started on Auto racing, can anyone say Ricky Bobby? Dang.

According to baseball insiders Bull Durham is the best movie about the sport and the most accurate portrayal of life in the minors. On the other hand I have heard many criticisms of The Pride of the Yankees because Gary Cooper was a righty playing left-handed Lou Gehrig. They apparently reversed the image in every shot where he throws or bats to make him look like a southpaw, but the acting is still great with Theresa Wright as his wife and quintessential sideman Walter Brennan as a sportswriter.

Rocky is the only film on this list which won Best Picture. But for my money the best sports movie of all is Hoosiers , which at least made the top five. It may be the least hokie sports film ever made with very understated characters and a "less is more" approach to storytelling and dialogue. Hoosiers doesn't ever trip over it's own sentimentality or folksy Americana (even with a stirring "sports" soundtrack). It is what it is, and as it comfortably shows us the myopic, basketball-crazy world of rural 1950s Indiana we get comfortable with it and hang on every shot and every rebound until the final triumphant moment. Hoosiers IS a "sports" movie and the best example I know of.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Top Ten Western

The AFI list for the top ten Westerns:

1. The Searchers
2. High Noon
3. Shane
4. Unforgiven
5. Red River
6. The Wild Bunch
7. Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid
8. McCabe and Mrs. Miller
9. Stagecoach
10. Cat Ballou

This is the category I feel I know the most about. There was a time when I only watched Westerns to the point that I couldn't remember a movie in any other genre. So I will put my own "top ten" down for a little comparison.

1. The Searchers
2. Shane
3. Red River
4. High Noon
5. Stagecoach
6. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (okay, it's Italian)
7. Tombstone
8. Destry Rides Again
9. Hombre
10. Rio Bravo

I suppose Unforgiven would just miss that list but there are many others I like which are deserving of mention- Little Big Man, Winchester '73, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, My Darling Clementine, Along Came Jones, 3:10 to Yuma (both versions), Fort Apache, Open Range, and Will Penny to name a few.

I do appreciate Butch and Sundance as a great film and Altman's artsy western McCabe and Mrs. Miller but I never really got the hype of The Wild Bunch. It was violent for it's day is all I get from it, not that it's a bad movie, I just wouldn't consider it top ten. I also can't figure out how a western comedy like Cat Ballou is better than some of John Ford's films I listed above...and I didn't include Rio Grande, or She Wore A Yellow Ribbon or 3 Godfathers. But I guess since The Searchers and Stagecoach made the list that was enough John Ford....Nonsense!
These are Westerns!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Top Ten Fantasy

AFI's list of the top ten in the Fantasy genre go like this:

1. The Wizard Of Oz
2. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
3. It's A Wonderful Life
4. King Kong(1933)
5. Miracle on 34th Street
6. Field Of Dreams
7. Harvey
8. Groundhog Day
9. The Thief of Baghdad(1924)
10. Big

And behold there was parsing....since E.T. is of course "Sci-Fi" and Fantasia is of course "Animation" and Sleepless In Seattle is of course "CRAP". And what about The Killing Fields? I'm kidding, please don't write letters, thank you. But seriously where is The Neverending Story? Okay, I'm still kidding.

This is a predictable list of movies except for maybe Field Of Dreams which ironically has scenes of Harvey in it. I haven't seen the silent version of The Thief of Baghdad with Douglas Fairbanks but I've heard it is very good. I have seen the 1940 version which is good, but unfortunately did NOT make this list which prevents me from delving into it and trying to look really really smart. Sorry.

I am a bit surprised that Big made the list but Buckaroo Banzai, Time Bandits, the first half of The Explorers, Conan The Barbarian, The Beastmaster, Clash of the Titans, D.A.R.Y.L., Tron, Cloak and Dagger, Innerspace, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, Legend, Labyrinth, The Dark Crystal, Vice Versa, Mannequin, Splash, Starman, Teen Wolf, Dreamscape, Who Framed Roger Rabitt?, Young Sherlock Holmes, Willow, and Desperately Seeking Susan did NOT make the list!! They could have made it work with a few ties.

Seriously though, is it not a shame that The Princess Bride wasn't chosen over Big at least? That is obviously one of the best films in this genre in modern movie history. However, I don't want to miss the fact that Groundhog Day has been given it's due- great movie and it only gets better with age!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Top Ten Courtroom Drama

AFI's top ten films in the "Courtroom Drama" category:

1. To Kill A Mockingbird
2. 12 Angry Men
3. Kramer vs. Kramer
4. The Verdict
5. A Few Good Men
6. Witness For The Prosecution
7. Anatomy of a Murder
8. In Cold Blood
9. A Cry In The Dark
10. Judgement At Nuremburg

I guess this is a good list. 1 and 2 are correct in my opinion but I just don't think of Kramer vs. Kramer as a "courtroom drama". It is full of drama but not so full of courtroom if I remember it right.
I have to confess this is my weakest category of them all. I can think of many films I like that would fall into this category: Francis Coppola'a The Rainmaker from the John Grisham book, Tucker: A Man and His Dream, Hitchcock's The Paradine Case, and The Man Who Wasn't There all come to mind. But, as of this writing I haven't seen four films on this list, *GASP!*, I know, I know! (The Verdict, Witness For The Prosecution, In Cold Blood, and I hadn't even heard of A Cry In The Dark until I saw the AFI special.) Oh well, even "movie kahns" have chinks in their armor. What I do know is that if they had a top ten for Courtroom Comedy then My Cousin Vinny would be at the top of my list and Legally Blonde would NOT be on it! Okay, it might, since I can't think of enough movies to fill the rest of the ten. That's why AFI passed on that idea.

BTW, I bet there are scores of people outraged that A Few Good Men wasn't number 1! All I can say to that is- "You Can't Handle The TRUTH!"....sorry, couldn't resist.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Top Ten Gangster Films

Here is the opinion of a buncha dunderheads at the American Film Institute on the top ten Gangster movies in our nation's history:

1. The Godfather
2. Goodfellas
3. The Godfather Part II
4. White Heat
5. Bonnie and Clyde
6. Scarface: The Shame of a Nation (1932)
7. Pulp Fiction
8. The Public Enemy
9. Little Caesar
10. Scarface (1983)

Alrighty, I'm starting to get fed up with these AFI retards! I don't care if Shuge Knight and P Diddy are reading this, Scarface is NOT a good movie! NOT! And I am not talking about the 1932 Paul Muni film which is a good movie, I'm talking about Al Pacino trying to talk like a Cuban, and Brian DePalma trying to act like a director, and the most childish dialogue ever written for a tough guy flick.

I guess all of those "Godfather 2 is better than the first one" film students lost their argument. Apparently, it isn't even as good as Goodfellas. Yes Bonnie and Clyde is a classic, but Little Caesar? If we have to include Edward G. Robinson why not Key Largo? He plays a gangster in that one doesn't he? And don't get me started on Pulp Fiction, just suffice it to say that I hate hate hate hate hate Quentin Tarantino. Is that good enough? At least Pulp Fiction isn't as bad as Scarface but like Scarface and Little Caesar and even White Heat it is highly overrated. I'm getting the sense that this was a really tough category for AFI. They must have turned on Turner Classic Movies during a "gangster marathon" and started writing down the lineup. When they salute Warren Beatty next week he might want to know why Bugsy didn't make their list (although I'm sure he's happy that Bonnie and Clyde did.) I may start to go insane as I ponder why, why, WHY they failed to include Miller's Crossing!!! Actually I like that movie even more than Goodfellas so I believe I have come to the point of not only hating Tarantino but also the American Film Institute! hate hate hate hate....I know, they aren't worth it. Anyway, 'til next time....

Happy Independence Day everybody!