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July 29, 2006


I rewatched Bull Durham last year and I realized that it's not nearly as good as I thought it was

That is the other danger is that you have a memory of movies as being great and you sit down to rewatch them, and if you are lucky, you think 'Ok, maybe it wasn't that great' and if you are like me, you think 'what the hell was I thinking?' This is especially true for comedies.

in no order...

Star Wars
The Outlaw Josey Wales
Blazing Saddles
Fight Club
Fellowship of the Ring
Blue Velvet
Full Metal Jacket
Pulp Fiction
A Clockwork Orange
Ferris Beullers Day Off
The Hudsucker Proxy
Nightmare Before Christmas

I loved "Bull Durham." And "Field of Dreams" too.


All of it; the narration is effing compelling.

But there is that scene in which the main character, late in the game, whacked on cocaine and afraid of being whacked by the local Mafia, is arranging the flight to Pittsburgh by his cynical, punkish, not very responsible nanny to deliver the blow to the connection, and he has the marinara sauce going on the stove, and his brother in the wheelchair doesn't quite know when to turn the veal cutlets, and his wife is liking the life a little too much, and he needs to go get the nanny's hat, cause she can't fly without the hat, which she announces as he's making the meatballs and the black helicopter is following him like Kofi Annan bugging a Redstater, and the cutlets are burning, and you had to feel for the guy, cause everywhere he looks there is that freaking helicopter and nobody is cooperating ....

Scorcese at his kinetic filmmaking best.

My favorite Costner films are from earlier in his career:

Silverado, a glorious Western that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves.

No Way Out, a wonderfully tight espionage flick where he's the military advisor to the secretary of defense, and having a fling with his boss' mistress. He accidentally kills her, and then gets put in charge of the investigation to find the killer, whom his boss is sure is a Soviet mole...complications ensue.

He accidentally kills her

Er, who's "he" in this sentence?

Yeah, this is an impossible task for me.

Some favorites, though:

Blade Runner
The Empire Strikes Back (the asteroid sequence is a work of art, ROTJ's space battle beats it for scope, but not for sheer elegance)
The Big Lebowski
Finding Nemo
The Incredibles (amazing animation, superb action, terrific cast, whip-smart dialogue, it has everything you could want out of an action movie and more)
The Iron Giant (dutchmarbel, under no other circumstances could Vin Diesel make me cry, much less by simply whispering "Superman")
The Wrong Trousers (the toy train chase puts this one above A Close Shave for me, Hilzoy)
Taxi Driver (since Goodfellas already got a nod in this thread)
Wild at Heart (actually, the only Lynch movie I don't care for is Eraserhead)
Moulin Rouge (cinema at its best, simultaneously self-aware and transporting)
Fight Club (ditto, though in an entirely different way)

"Contact" would not make my list, though it might have shortly after my first viewing. The opening sequence is stunning, and the climactic scene is touching on a number of levels. But subsequent viewings have allowed me to gain a little distance from the subject matter, and to notice just how bad the script is in a lot of places. And having read Sagan's novel, I can't help but feel that the movie rendered his overall vision in crayon. Movie adaptations are rarely as good as the book, but hewing closer to the source material would have cut Matthew McConaughey's character's role down dramatically, and that would have been an unqualified good. The more I think about it, the more I just feel that the movie is a disaster. Though, any movie with John Hurt has to have some redeeming qualities (and he does a hell of a lot more with his meager role than his fellow "Alien" alum Tom Skerrit does with far more screen time).

I'm growing increasingly convinced that Robert Zemeckis, while he can capture some striking images, can't cast a movie to save his life. "Cast Away" was gorgeous, and deeply moving in a lot of ways, but Helen Hunt for crying out loud?

Josh: Sorry for the ambiguity. Kevin Costner's character accidentally kills his boss' mistress, and his boss leaps to the conclusion that the killer must have been the Soviet mole that the boss has been hoping to find. Oh, the boss is played by Gene Hackman, who does a fine job conveying the sense of great intelligence not necessarily well socialized.

Blue Velvet

Brazil (director's cut!)

Blade Runner (director's cut!!)

Barton Fink

Big Lebowski

Stalker (Tarkowski)

French Connection

Touch of Evil


The Five Obstructions

some other ones

Just to stir the pot...

I've never understood the love people have for the Godfather II. The first one I found very interesting, as Michael Corleone was seduced into becoming the thing he tried to avoid. But the second one lacked any that depth. Two completely different storylines made the movie somewhat annoying to follow, and I didn't really get the sense that there was much more going on than filling in Vito Corleone's backstory and showing just how far Michael had fallen into darkness. The best thing I ever saw come out of Godfather II was a Bananarama song.

Metropolis (Of Course)
Breaker Morant
The Year of Living Dangerously
All Quiet on the Western Front
Paths of Glory
The Haunting (The 1963 version, not the crappy 1999 remake)
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Rock n Roll High School

That's eleven. I notice all the comedies are from my high school and college years and I like a young Mel Gibson/Peter Weir combination before one revealed himself as an anti-semitic jesus freak and the other sold out to hollywood.

In alphabetical order:

Beauty and the Beast (the Cocteau version)
Flesh and the Devil
It Happened One Night
On the Waterfront
Open City
Some Like It Hot
The Day the Earth Stood Still
The Kid
The Maltese Falcon

Silverado, a glorious Western that doesn't get nearly the attention it deserves.

Yes yes yes! Another movie where I think just about every scene is perfect.

Metropolis should be accompagnied by a year, though I assume you mean the original?

Do we have two Andrews now?

Birdy is really very underestimated. It made a hugh impact on me, both for the story and the beautiful camera handling.

Ugh: Ahhh, good to find other Silverado fans.

Damon: Stalker is one of the most visually stunning movies I've ever seen. Maybe I should assemble a list of favorite quiet films.

Metropolis should be accompagnied by a year, though I assume you mean the original?

I wasn't aware that anything but the 1926 Fritz Lang masterpiece would appear in anyone's list of great film. Besides, the "of course" refers to my pseudonym.

Ah, somebody else put Barry Lyndon into play. Should a movie be considered for an all-time list on the basis of cinematography alone? I am afraid to rent the DVD, believing that watching it on an old, small TV will be horribly disappointing.

I don't think No Way Out is being described correctly in this thread. I don't remember Kevin Costner's character killing the mistress.

Great, underrated movie though.

Here's the IMDB summary, if that helps.

This line, from that summary, made me chuckle:

"He now has only a few hours to find the killer before the computer regenerates the photo."

Ah, the '80's.

That reminds me of what Tom Hanks had to say about making Apollo 13, where the Apollo spacecraft's computer had ~20k of RAM. "We're making a movie about going to the moon, and it's a period piece."

Of course, there's also the scene where the onboard computer has been shut down, and the astronauts and the guys at mission control have to calculate the course corrections by hand. It was a nice way of conveying just how far the Apollo program was pushing the boundaries of human ingenuity. I don't think much of Ron Howard as a director, but I did enjoy that movie.

It's fun reading other people's movie lists. Like Andrew, there are some mentioned here I've never heard of. My own list isn't that different from Andrew's, though there are some others listed here I'd maybe put ahead of his.

Interesting that the LOTR fans present seem to agree (with the possible exception of Jes) that FOTR was the best of the three. I loved the second and almost loved the third, and they all differ from the book, but the really annoying deviations come in the second and third movies. FOTR deviates, as I recall, mainly in leaving out Tom Bombadil (which I regret, but it's understandable), and in putting Arwen in place of Glorfindel. But that, heretical as it might seem to a Tolkien fan, might actually be an improvement.


I loved all three, but Jackson's portrayal of Faramir and Denethor I found rather grating at times. And I thought he could have spent a little more time on Frodo and Sam's journey to Mount Doom if he hadn't spent so much building Denethor up as a nut.

I concur on Arwen in lieu of Glorfindel. Since she is going to appear later, introducing her earlier isn't a bad idea.

Many a good film listed...I'd add:

Harold and Maude
The Nightmare Before Christmas
It's a Wonderful Life
Toy Story
Good Night and Good Luck
Dreams (A.K.'s film)

I agree with Andrew. Especially about Faramir actually though maybe that counts even more for Saruman. (wrong portrayal)

I thought the 'funny Gimli' bit brought the whole film down.

I do have an urge to go to New Sealand on a holiday :)


Try The Chocolate War, it has the beautiful grays and rich overcast afternoons.

Alan Parker's work in Birdy was dreamy.

Yes, the book had more depth; however Parker really made it his own, and it didn't suufer for it.

I had mixed feelings about what Jackson did to Faramir--Jackson had built the Ring up to be even more powerful than it was in the books (it corrupts people faster), so it would have been an internal inconsistency to have Faramir overcome temptation too easily. But I loved the book Faramir and missed not having him in the movie.

But what Jackson did to Denethor's character was a war crime. Oops, wrong thread. All the same, it was.

SoD: sounds interesting, but the dvd is not out yet appearantly.

Donald: FOTR deviates, as I recall, mainly in leaving out Tom Bombadil (which I regret, but it's understandable), and in putting Arwen in place of Glorfindel. But that, heretical as it might seem to a Tolkien fan, might actually be an improvement.

Oh, I could live without Tom Bombadil (I like him, but he can be abstracted from the story without damage), and I think it was a perfectly valid dramatic decision to have Arwen be the elf who rescues Frodo from the Riders: I wish Jackson had followed through on that decision to have Arwen be a kick-ass elvish warrior through all three movies, rather than having her turn into Love-sick Elf Maiden in the third movie.

No, the deviation I mind about in the first movie is quite small but still significant: when Frodo slips on the Ring and is attacked by the Nazgul, in the book, when finally backed into a corner, he dives forward and stabs at the Rider with his knife, crying "O Elbereth! Gilthoniel!" It's a moment I was keyed up, waiting for, when I first saw FotR, because it's the first moment Frodo really fights back - and to me it was and is symbolic of all the moments of fierce resistence we see in Frodo and in the other hobbits, even in Gollum.

Only it didn't happen: in the movie, Frodo fell on his back and writhed about a bit, till he was rescued by someone else.

One of the things I like about TLotR - and never knew I did until I saw the movies - is that you'd never know from reading Tolkien that a person who's under 4 feet tall is inherently mockable. Gimli isn't a figure of fun in the books: but neither director nor actor is bothering to think about Gimli as a person who can be taken seriously in the movies.


Excellent points. The diminution of Gimli was a very annoying decision on Jackson's part, and I would have liked to see Frodo calling on Elbereth and Gilthoniel as well.

Andrew, the thing is - I read The Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was 12. And in the next three or four years I read it god-knows-how-many-times. And since then I've read the whole trilogy probably about once every two or three years - just whenever the impulse comes over me.

I loved the movies. I thought they were a brilliant adaption of the novels. I can and will defend most of the major changes - I regret the Faramir of the novels, but I think the Faramir of the movies is a perfectly good character in his own right. (Likewise Denethor.) I can think of different adaptations that could have been made to reduce the three volumes into three watchable-length films, but mostly, I'm okay with how Jackson did it, and I think he set a good standard for next time someone sets out to do it.

It's the little changes that bug me. (And the few big changes that are dramatically indefensible, like turning Gimli into a figure of fun, or having the Ents decide that they didn't care about what Saruman was doing.) Having Eowyn be a bad cook and Aragorn be a terrible diplomat. Having Aragorn kiss Arwen in front of the entire crowd. That kind of thing.

I found the change in Saruman's motivation to be very foolish (and unnecessary). He was someone who became evil by wanting to study evil to get more power to fight evil. I thought that was a very important point in the book.

What about Jackson's abandoning of the Scouring of the Shire? In Ursula leGuin's writing on LotR, she argues that we're meant to identify with the Hobbits (as Tolkien himself, of course, thought of them as analogues to English yeomen), which is why the story ends with Sam. I remember reading somewhere that Jackson had no interest in the Scouring chapter; that made me wonder if he actually understood the perspective from which Tolkien was writing (as I understand it). I can see the argument against including it in the movie--after all the big dramatic stuff, it might seem sort of half-assed or comedic--but perhaps that's a misjudgment of the same type as making a dwarf a comic character. I've wondered if the reason for those changes is because you're bound to identify with the human characters in the movies, them being human and all, so the hobbit's-eye-view that makes up so much of the book was abandoned as considered impossible to manage.

Good point, Sebastian. Jackson takes the most complicated characters in the book (Saruman, Denethor) and flattens them out. And yeah, Saruman in the book is fascinating--falling into evil because he studied it too deeply. And just the fact that it was a three-sided war made it more interesting than it is in the movie.

The height jokes were more of Jackson's cheapening of the material, similar to the way he decided to make the Ents into wooden-headed morons. Or when he interrupts a rather stirring battle scene (Aragorn leading the charge against the Uruk-hai after the wall is breached) with Legolas doing some skateboarding trick. Ugh.

I could see why the Scouring was left out, but it might also be a reflection of Jackson's mistaken reading.

All this criticism, when actually, I loved the movies. Even the last one, though I was a little disappointed with it.

Yes, I think making Saruman just another Sauron lackey wasn't a good choice either (or is that in addition to the other changes in Saruman's character?).

I actually really liked the movies, and respected a number of the changes he made. I just thought the change in the Saruman character changed the good-evil dynamic in a way that was both unnecessary and unhelpful. A huge theme of the book is that we all have a very strong capacity for evil. Jackson seemed to misunderstand how that functioned in the story. (The tin ear on this subject led to one of the only bad scenes in the Fellowship of the Ring, when Galadriel rejects Frodo's offer of the ring.)

I humbly submit Rounders:

- Matt Damon
- Ed Norton
- John Malkovich (doing the craziest accent ever)
- Famke Janssen

'nuff said.

Also Three Kings.

George Clooney's best performance, plus music video director Spike Jonze proving he can act. Holds up to repeated viewings.

Despite Jackson's various failings (and they were numerous), I tend to forgive almost all of it for the charge of the Rohirrim outside Minas Tirith. When Theoden gets up before his men and charges down the line before leading them into battle, I get goosebumps. The expression on the orcs as they realize their arrows can't stop the charge is a beautiful thing; a cavalry charge is a terrible thing to behold, and RotK captured that about as well as anything could, I think.

Of course, as a cavalryman, I may be a bit biased.

I stepped outside a few minutes ago to take a break for a few minutes, and I just want to say, "The sun! It burns us, precioussss!"

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