Thursday, January 31, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #11

Chariots of Fire

"I saw where Chariots of Fire just won Best Picture. I’ll get around to seeing it."
Chris, a student, sometime in 1981

"All right. I still haven't seen Chariots
of Fire
, and now I can't get that song
out of my head.
Chris, a librarian, the first blog post on 1001: A Film Odyssey from August, 2009

I’ve listed Chariots of Fire several times as a heading on this blog whenever I couldn’t think of any other heading to use, even though I’d never seen it. I was going to keep using this and have Chariots of Fire as my last movie of the 1001 list, but I thought since I was doing 80’s Movies I never got around to seeing before this month, I figured it was probably time to watch it. I guess I’ll have to find another film for my heading for any more miscellaneous blog listings.

When a lot of people think of Chariots of Fire, the first think you think of is the theme song by Vangelis. Even if you haven’t seen the movie, you’re probably familiar with the majestic theme, usually associated with Olympic runners running dramatically in slow motion. This has been referenced and parodied countless times, from National Lampoon’s Vacation to Madagascar.

The actual film isn’t bad, though doesn’t really strike me as a Best Picture winner. Some thought that Reds or even Raiders of the Lost Ark should have won that year.

What strikes me as interesting about this film is how old fashioned it is. If you take away the sophisticated camera angels and slow motion of the actual athletic competition and the use of the score (though I think the score is used even more dramatically in the accompanying Vangelis music video), I think this film could have been made in 1951 just as easily as 1981. It’s a definite throwback plotwise, which is interesting that it came as a Best Picture winner in the aftermath of radical 70’s cinema. Definitely a sign of a change in direction.

Now that I've gotten that Chariot off my back, I can feel the closure and know it's finally time for me to forge ahead.

Monday, January 28, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #10

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

Why haven't I seen this before: I actually have seen parts of it. I have never really understood the movie stardom of Matthew Broderick, but Ferris Bueller is on the list and I’ll give it a go.

After viewing: For the romp it is, it isn’t too bad. Many can relate to 80’s high school hooky players with the 80’s designer names: Ferris, Cameron and Sloane-all being pursued by the persistent but always faltering principlal Mr. Rooney.

We know Ferris and his friends will thwart Mr. Rooney in the end. You know there will be the potential for growth for Cameron, his never seen father and their red '61 Ferrari-This is an 80’s movie after all. But what if this movie had a more 70’s type ending? I think it would go something like this.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: Epilogue

Ferris, Sloane and Cameron are playing hooky again. We see them outside driving the '61 Ferrari down a road, clearly outside the busy streets of Chicago and their safe neighborhood of privilege.

Cameron and his father have clearly had a moment of understanding, since the car has been restored and he is letting Cameron drive it. The joy the three of them feel as they are speeding down the road is clear.

It is then that Ferris spots an image in the distance, which causes Cameron to slow down. A mysterious figure is blocking their path. As the Ferrari approaches the figure, they see a Harley Davidson parked sideways in the middle of the road. A leather cladded figure wearing a helmet with an American flag decal gets off the bike and approaches them.

It is then, the group notices that this figure is carrying a shotgun. He pulls off his helmet. It is none other than their principal, Mr. Rooney!

Mr. Rooney's only words (which he says inexplicably in a rural Louisiana accent) are “Why ain’t you kids in school?”

We see the shocked expression on their faces as Mr. Rooney turns the gun in their direction.

The first shot flies out of the rifle and hits Cameron in the chest. Ferris grabs onto his slumping friend, who looks back into Ferris's eyes and says, “Ferris, we blew it,” before closing his own eyes for the last time.

Sloane screams as she leaps out of the car and begins to run away, only to be cut down by a single shot from Rooney’s shotgun.

The blood soaked Ferris leaps out of the car and runs madly toward Rooney. Rooney takes careful aim before taking his final shot in Ferris’s direction.

We don’t actually see Ferris get hit. Instead we see the symbolic image of the Ferrari exploding into a fiery heap.

Cut to an aerial shot that clearly shows the carnage below as Mr. Rooney speeds away on his motorcycle. As the picture continues to ascend, we hear the strains of Fraternity of Man’s Don’t Bogart That Joint on the soundtrack. As the credits begin to roll, the song then changes to one more round of The Beatles version of Twist and Shout.


Saturday, January 26, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #9

Do the Right Thing.

Why haven't I seen this before: Honestly, I'm not sure. I've seen other Spike Lee movies, just not his most famous one.

After viewing: I remember now why I haven't seen this before. There is a hell of a lot of unpleasantness depicted here! Of course, it does have some light moments early in the film.

Overall, it does ring true, and has a lot to say about race relations and living in poverty. And It's definitely a film that should be seen once...though I'm not sure I'd want to see it twice.

Personal note: Ossie Davis (pictured below) was the commencement speaker at my graduate school graduation ceremony from Clark Atlanta University. He was a very inspirational speaker, and is even better as The Mayor in Do the Right Thing.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #8

Dangerous Liaisons

Why Haven't I seen this before?: 18th century setting with the French aristocracy…once again you got to be in the mood for it.

After viewing: The major appeal of this film is in watching the interchange between the main characters in their hathcing of various plots and intrigues. Once the these intrigues between Glenn Close, John Malkovich and the rest of the cast get going, the story becomes very interesting.

And a note to Uma Thurman: Please put your clothes on, there might be kids watching!*

*Unless there aren't any kids in the room and then it's fine.

Monday, January 21, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #7

Why haven’t I seen it before? The combination of Steven Speilberg and Alice Walker always seemed a little odd to me. I know that isn't a very good reason to put off seeing it for twenty-seven years, but there you have it.

After viewing: It’s a pretty strong and involving drama, I must admit. I’m not usually a big Whoppi Goldberg fan, but she seems perfectly cast in the main role of Ceily.

Other memorable supporting players include Danny Glover as Whoppi's reprehensible husband, Margaret Avery as Shug and Oprah (I forget her last name) as Sofia.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #6

Babette’s Feast

Why haven’t I seen it before?
It certainly got good reviews when it came out. It was also studied quite often (at least the Isak Dinesen short story) at the college library where I worked. It became one of those “I’ll see it eventually movies” that I never got around to seeing.

After viewing: This is a film that starts very slowly. It is about as far to the opposite side of the adrenaline scale from an Indiana Jones movie as you could possibly get and I did have a little trouble getting into the story intially. But I think if the viewer reamins patient, and waits for the servings to come out, Babette's Feast really does beat the hell out of the standard Hollywood burgers and fries.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #5

Why haven’t I seen it before?

I honsestly don't know. Directed by John Huston...Jack Nicholson and Kathleen Turner...Well reviewed thugs and hoods movie. Seems to have all the elements of something I would have seen.

After viewing:The battle for dominance between the hired guns Turner and Nicholson was fun to watch. It was also different to see Nicholson playing someone that seemed far removed from the usual Jack persona. And how many directors other than Huston put out important films in five different decades? I don't actually have the answer to that question, but I'm guessing not too many.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #4

Say Anything

Why haven’t I seen it before?
My main image of this movie is that of a mopey John Cusak holding a ghetto blaster over his head to play a song to a girl who one presumes broke his heart. I just couldn’t bring myself to watch it.

After viewing: As I was watching the opening credits, I did notice several respected names flashing by: Polly Platt, Laslo Kovacs, Cameron Crowe. It turns out to actually be a sweet little romance and the lead actors (and John Mahoney as the dad) are engaging and Crowe’s story usually hits the right tone.

And cinematographer Laslo Kovacs really gets around.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

BRAZIL (1985)

80's Films I never got around to seeing when they first came out month Post #3


Why haven’t I seen this before?
This seems like the kind of film that I would have seen by now. I began to watch it on cable one night a few years ago, but I just wasn’t in the mood to see it. I never got back to it.

After viewing: I can see why this bizarre Terry Gilliam film is beloved by some and causes total confusion in others. The futuristic storyline of a series of events began by a bureaucratic error is not in itself that complicated, but the way Gilliam tells the story is often confusing but so visually striking that you really want to stay with it.

Note: If you get the DVD, make sure you watch Gilliam’s description of all the problems he had getting this film made.

Friday, January 11, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #2

Das Boot

Why haven’t I seen this before?

It's one of those movies that you heard about and heard how much people loved it but you just never got around to seeing.

Even in later years, I heard talk about what a great movie this was. But the bottom line is that I just never had the motivation to sit and watch a three hour movie set almost entirely on a German sub. But now I’m ready. Or at least I'm going to try to make myself ready.

After viewing? First, Das Boot is a bit long at three hours. We are dealing with a movie that spends 90% of its time locked up on a sub with these Germans. And although,these guys may be Germans, they never seem like Nazis fighting for Hitler and the Third Reich even though that's what they're doing! We never see their enemy (the Brits) so there is no counterbalance of sympathy possible. The Germans on the sub are just soldiers doing their job and when horrible things happen to them, you begin to feel not only bad about what befalls them but even worse that you are feeling bad about the side that history recorded as the ultimate evil!

Damn you for making me feel this way, Das Boot!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


80’s movies I forgot to watch the first time around month Post #1

Breakfast Club

Why haven’t I seen this before? Because I was just never excited about seeing films with members of the brat pack. No, a movie with Molly Ringwald and Judd Nelson would have never been on my must see list.

After viewing: How you relate to certain movies depends on where you were in your life when it came out. I was probably about the same age as most of the people in this movie when it came out, though they were playing high school students. So I’m 21 or 22 years old and I’m suppose to relate to these constantly whining teengaers? I’m supposed to relate to a movie with Judd Nelson in it?

But you know, it’s not all that bad and does have some occasional insight.

I do give the movie points for being set in a library as well, though I did have to close my eyes during the scenes where Judd Nelson began defacing library property.

I did see a lot nostalgic sadness when director John Hughes passed away a couple of years ago, so I do understand that many related to and grew up with his films. If only it would have come out in 1979, I might like this one as much as Rock n Roll N'High School. Of course, P. J. Soles wasn't in The Breakfast Club either.

Monday, January 7, 2013

BATMAN: THE SERIES (1966-1968), BATMAN (1989), THE DARK KNIGHT (2008)

Batman: The Series (1966-1968), Batman (1989), The Dark Knight (2008)

Joker…Joker… Joker

It’s interesting that the only two Superhero movies on any of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die lists are both Batman movies. And it is no accident that both of the Batman movies listed have the same supervillain: The Joker.

I grew up watching the campy but endearing Batman television series. One of its many pleasures was the villain of the week. We had the waddling Penguin, The constantly giggling Riddler, the sexy Catwoman and many, many other guest bad guys or gals visit Gotham City during the three year run of the show. But I’ve got to admit, that despite the infectious laugh of the Riddler, that weird quacking noise the Penguin made and the obvious charms of Julie Newmar in the Catwoman outfit, the one that stood out the most was The Joker.

Cesar Romero was kind of a second tier Latin lover leading man during the 1930’s and 1940’s, but I really only think of him as The Joker. Bright green hair, white face makeup painted right over Romero’s moustache and that purple suit were The Joker’s signatures and this pretty much cemented into my head how The Joker was supposed to be. The way Romero drew out his words, “Yeeees, Batman,” the way he clapped his gloved hands together in rapid succession and of course that laugh, (Hoo hoo hoo hoo)were all signatures. I also liked the scenes when the Joker traded fisticuffs with the caped crusader and a stuntman for Romero in a Joker’s getup would get really get it! Biff! Kapow! Splaat!

The impression of the television show (as well as the comic books) was pretty strong and I really didn’t think anyone could make a successful Batman movie that wasn’t camp. Then Tim Burton brought his Batman to the screen in 1989. I don’t have any direct proof of this statement, but my guess is that it was the most hyped movie ever up until that time. At least it seemed that way. When it was announced that the Joker was going to be the villain, there was clearly only one choice for the role: Jack Nicholson.

Some have said about Burton’s Batman, that it should actually have been called The Joker and it is really just as much about him as Batman.

In this Batman, Jack Napier is a criminal long before he becomes The Joker. We find out later that Jack was the one that killed Bruce Wayne’s parents("Ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight"). It is during an altercation with Batman that Jack falls into acid, which disfigures him and turns him into The Joker. Nicholson’s Joker is hammy, but scary. He’s full of one-liners, (“Where does he get those wonderful toys?” “Those are my balloons. He stole my balloons! Why didn't anyone tell me he had one of those... things?") He even compares their respective origins with Batman during their final scene ("Give me a break! I was a kid when I killed your parents. When I say 'I made you' you gotta say 'you made me.' How childish can you get?"). IDespite the oddity of seeing Nicholson prance around to Prince songs, Nicholson’s Joker works, and Batman's initial return to the screen was a success. Subsequent films were popular, but as the Batmen kept changing (Michael Keaton to Val Kilmer to George Clooney) and the villains became a little less compelling (Arnold Schwarenaggers’ endless cold related puns from Batman and Robin), the series eventually died.

Christopher Nolan brought the series back in 2005 with the film Batman Begins, based on The Dark Knight graphic novels by Frank Miller. Nolan’s films are bleaker than the Burton inspired series and are about as far away from the original Batman television show as you can get. But it’s the second film, The Dark Knight that is included on the 1001 list. What sets it apart from Batman Begins? The obvious answer is that villain of villains: The Joker. But unlike the casting of Jack Nicholson in the previous series, the casting of Heath Ledger seemed a bit odd. You mean one of the gay cowboys from Brokeback Mountain as The Joker? Obviously, Nolan or whoever cast Ledger in the part knew what they were doing. In the Burton Batman, you might really like what Nicholson does with The Joker, but you never forget that it’s Nicholson’s Joker. In The Dark Knight, I don’t think of it being Ledger’s Joker, that’s just the freaking Joker! Unlike Nicholson’s Joker, The Dark Knight’s Joker has no past, no origin story, no traditional criminal motivation and no previous connection with Batman/Bruce Wayne. He is a terrorist, pure and simple whose modus operandi is identified by Alfred the butler in that some people just want to see the world burn. That is what makes this the scariest Joker of all.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


*Today’s blog isn’t really about Chariots of Fire

I have now been doing this blog since Septemeber 2009. I have seen 450 movies so far out of 1103 from the original 1001 list and all updated lists. Yes, I am now working from the 1100-Plus list of Movies You Must See Before You Die. I've seen a little over 40% of the films on all the lists.

Maybe I’ll finish. Maybe I’ll quit. Maybe I’ll die first.

If it is the latter, please have my obituary read something like “Keeled over from angst while experiencing an Antonioni film or dropped dead from an excessive adrenaline rush while watching The Seven Samurai.”

You just never know what will happen in this life. As they say in one of the 1001 films, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.” I can’t remember which film that is from, but you get the idea.