Mettel Ray has started an interesting blog-a-thon at her site: “My Movie Alphabet”. The concept is pretty simple and straightforward: for each letter of the alphabet, plus one for numbers and symbols, choose something movie-related that fits that letter and represents some corner of your movie viewing. It sounded like fun, so I’ve decided to take a crack at it. It proved challenging in places, and I know a lot of this is subject to constant flux, but here’s my list.
The list starts off with a difficult spot, as there aren’t all that many films that I’ve seen that start with numbers. And, of course, there are even fewer actors and directors whose names start with numbers — if there are any, they’re probably self-described “artistes” who think painting their face blue and dressing up in a suit with light-bulbs and dancing counts as making a film. But after some consideration, I came up with an entry that represents my tastes in film quite well: the decade of the 1980s. While I enjoy films from all decades, this is the era I grew up in, and I still have a great deal of fondness for films from this era. Not just my old favorites, either; when I encounter a previously-unseen film from the 1980s, I’m significantly more likely to enjoy it than other decades. Something about the era’s sense of style and sense of fun permeates the action films, science-fiction films, and comedy films and makes them both immediately recognizable and typically enjoyable.
You almost have to feel sorry for Hollywood sometimes. Robin Hood is an old legend, and as such ripe to numerous re-interpretations. But when they get it so right so early on, everything else just sort of falls short. Nowadays some people might remember Kevin Costner’s take more, or the fun animated Disney film. And I’ll admit to being fond of Robin Hood: Men in Tights. But even though there are a lot of good versions of the story, there’s only one great one, and it’s the 1938 film, The Adventures of Robin Hood. Bright and colorful, and well-written, it stars some of the biggest stars of the day: Errol Flynn, Olivia de Havilland, Basil Rathbone, and Claude Rains all have major roles. If you haven’t seen this version, you owe it to yourself to do so.
The trilogy which took the DeLorean and turned it from a joke to a car that every kid from the 80s wanted. There are other great time travel movies out there, but this is the one that just about everybody remembers first… perhaps because it doesn’t bother trying to be too complicated about the rules and regulations of time-travel. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are great as Marty and Doc Brown, and play well off of each other — enough so that it probably took most people twenty years to ask how those two ever became friends in the first place. The first film is the best of the bunch, but the third is also a very good film; I like the second, but it’s definitely a bit of a weak spot in the series. Still, all three films have a lot of memorable moments. And scientists, you have about two and a half years remaining to deliver on the hoverboards and Mr. Fusion.
I’ve loved comic book characters since I was a kid watching the Super Friends on television. That still holds true today, and although I don’t always manage to catch a film right away, if it has superheroes in it, you can bet that I’ll get around to it eventually. Even if it’s probably not a very good film. I’ve always been a bigger fan of DC Comics than Marvel, but I have to admit that Marvel has been more on top of their game when it comes to films lately.
Yes, I’m counting Pixar as part of Disney, since even when they weren’t yet part of the company, Disney had a large hand in getting their feature films distributed. At any rate, I enjoy animation, and no company has as big a footprint in animation as Disney — or as consistently high quality of one. There are Disney films I don’t like as much as others, but of those I’ve seen, there have yet to be any I fully disliked. Though I’ll admit there are a few unseen ones I’m a touch skeptical on, but I’ll still watch them and see for myself.
Just as The Adventures of Robin Hood is the best Robin Hood movie I’ve seen, Excalibur is the best King Arthur movie I’ve seen. Part of this is due to the production values and the quality acting, but a lot of it is also due to the scope. Modern stories of King Arthur are all traceable, to some degree, back to Thomas Mallory’s Le Morte D’arthur. That novel, based on the existing folklore, essentially has four acts: the time before Arthur, the rise of Arthur and the establishment of the Round Table, the adventures of the Knights at the height of Camelot, and the fall of Camelot and the death of Arthur (hence the title; it’s a tragedy.) Most King Arthur stories today start in the second act and end in the second or third. Excalibur covers all four.
I’m a fan of Disney in general, but in my opinion, Disney’s masterpiece is Fantasia. Want to know why? I wrote about 5000 words on why. Writing more here would just be superfluous.
Another movie to receive a Favorite Films write-up from me, there’s not much more that needs to be said about Ghostbusters except to note how big the franchise was in my youth. Between the movies, the cartoons, and a local funeral home that repainted one of their hearses to look like Ecto-1, I think every kid in my area thought growing up to be a Ghostbuster was a real thing.
I always enjoy those “Hey, it’s that guy!” actors, the ones who keep showing up everywhere without taking the spotlight. Hugo Weaving is almost one of them, except that he’s almost as ubiquitous while still taking major roles. From The Matrix to V For Vendetta, Captain America to Lord of the Rings, even voicing Megatron in Transformers, Hugo Weaving has kind of gone from a minor actor to a major part of several large franchises in a short while. And he’s always entertaining, and just hammy enough to make a good villain or showman.
Harrison Ford was one I considered for “H”, because of his role in this franchise, Star Wars, Blade Runner and several other films. But I didn’t want two letters in a row devoted to him, and Indiana Jones was a shoo-in for “I”. Raiders of the Lost Ark is the best one, of course, but all of them are fun pulp-action films; yes, even the fourth one.
The Muppet Movie is already inducted in my Favorite Films list, but the rest of Jim Henson’s work ranks nearly as high. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the Muppets or any of his numerous side-projects, it was all fantastic. In his own way, he carved out a field much like Walt Disney did, and it was an even more personal endeavor, if that is possible. It’s a real shame his life was cut relatively short, as I would have liked to have seen where he went with things. The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth showed that he had a skill for fantasy that was as deft as his skill with comedy.
It took me a shamefully long time to figure out that Kurt Russell would be the ideal choice for “K”. Starting out as a child star, he has one of the longest film careers in Hollywood, spanning six decades so far. He’s done goofy teen comedies, goofy non-teen comedies, serious action films, tongue-in-cheek action films, science fiction, westerns, and everything in between, and he’s always done it with style and skill. A very underrated actor, in my opinion.
Because how many stories could span 9 hours and still be entertaining? I may have some skepticism about The Hobbit being stretched out to three films, but I’ll be there, because Peter Jackson showed he can do justice to Tolkien’s work.
Another of my favorites (the overlap really shouldn’t be surprising), The Matrix is a great science-fiction film, and if the sequels are a bit lackluster, and the imitators usually fall short, at least the original still holds up rather well.
There may not be a more perfect satire. Network borrowed from reality, twisted reality, and in a lot of ways predicted reality. Incredibly scathing, it’s a massive condemnation not only of what TV journalism had become, but what it would become. In these days of tabloid television, with TMZ being treated as a news source, “reality” game shows, and self-made celebrities who never produced anything of merit, Network is more relevant than ever, and out of all the movies that aren’t universally shown in schools, it’s arguably the one that would be most needful. I apologize if this sounds a bit like ranting, but it’s almost impossible to discuss Network without channeling a bit of Howard Beale himself.
While Network is mostly a serious drama, Office Space is a comedy — but no less a satire. One derides our entertainment, the other derides our enterprise, and both arguably have a point. Most particularly, Office Space is just as relatable, especially if one has worked in a tech office. You know these people. The names and faces may be different, but the personalities are the same. We’ve all had to deal with a Lumbergh and a Milton and all the others, and we just hope that on our good days we can find the right balance between caring enough to succeed and not caring so much that it becomes toxic.
Philip K. Dick was a science-fiction author known for having some very out-there ideas in his novels and short stories. And Hollywood just loves to adapt them into movies, usually taking just the high concept and changing the plot… and several times they’ve come up with good films in the process. Not always, but their successes include the original Total Recall, The Adjustment Bureau, Minority Report, and of course Blade Runner. According to IMDb, there are five more films currently in development based on Dick’s works.
Ah, Q. Not the easiest letter to work with. Quentin Tarantino is dominating a lot of the lists of other participants in the blog-a-thon, and Quiz Show is taking up most of the rest so far. I considered going with the 1986 Kevin Bacon film Quicksilver just to be different, but truthfully while it was enjoyable it doesn’t break out from the crowd enough to warrant being here. So it was down to Quentin and Quiz Show, and Quiz Show won out due to a simple reason: I rank it just a bit ahead of Pulp Fiction on 1994’s list of Best Picture nominees. Just a bit. Quite a year for nominees, though; those two films, Four Weddings and a Funeral, The Shawshank Redemption, and Forrest Gump, which won. I haven’t seen Four Weddings and a Funeral, but I haven’t heard anybody say it didn’t belong in there. Really, of the films I’ve seen, any of the four could justifiably be picked as the best film of the year. I would have gone with The Shawshank Redemption, but Quiz Show wouldn’t be far behind.
Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder are each great individually, but when they were in a film together, it was that much better. Admittedly, I haven’t seen Another You yet, but even if it’s the least funny of the four, the other three were so funny I don’t doubt I’ll be entertained. In the old days of Hollywood, comedy was often done by teams; the Marx Brothers, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, the Three Stooges… you don’t really see that very much any more. Though they each had successes on their own, Pryor and Wilder may have been the last great comic film team.
There really isn’t a film franchise with a bigger impact on pop culture than Star Wars. Since 1977, I doubt there has been more than 1% of boys (and only a few more girls) in western civilization who haven’t loved Star Wars. Yeah, we may criticize the prequels, and we may kvetch about the alterations that George Lucas has made (and especially not releasing the unaltered originals in a remastered format), but the original trilogy still stands as a high water mark in entertainment.
Yes, it’s silly. Stupid, even. But it’s also non-stop hilarity. ¡Three Amigos! is one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, and every time I watch it I still crack up. Even my father, who seldom re-watches anything that’s less than 50 years old, will watch it and laugh. And it’s a well-done homage to old silent films and the singing cowboy and even The Magnificent Seven, and is surprisingly carefully crafted. All the guns are period accurate — many serious westerns don’t pull that off.
From a silly western to a serious one. Whether you are ranking among westerns, modern westerns, deconstructions of westerns, modern movies, or just films in general, saying Unforgiven is one of the best isn’t likely to cause many arguments.
It really doesn’t matter what it is, if it stars Vincent Price, I’ll watch it. A tremendously skilled entertainer, when Price is in a good movie, he’s great; when he’s in a terrible movie, he’s still great, and is usually doing his best to make sure the audience still has something to be entertained by, even if it’s him poking fun at the film by hamming it up.
An unprecedented level of cooperation between studios created one of the best films of the 1980s, and one of the best to blend live-action and animation (which back then was still a relative rarity). An homage to both cartoons and film noir, Who Framed Roger Rabbit gracefully hits every emotional note it can with both thrills and laughter from start to finish.
Easily the hardest letter of them all, we really ought to just excise the letter x from the English language. It only causes trouble. Anyway, I find myself with only one option for “X”, and that is X-Men, surprising only very easily-surprised people. Though I enjoy comic book movies, I’m actually not a huge fan of the X-Men franchise — of course, I was never a fan before the movies either — and haven’t even seen the most recent two. I thought the first film was good, and the second was all right; the third was terrible. But even with my ambivalence towards the films, X-Men was the start of the current wave of high-quality superhero movies, and it justifies its default placement on the list on that merit.
Mel Brooks’s finest film, Young Frankenstein brings together Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr, Cloris Leachman and Madeline Kahn. It’s a masterful homage and parody of old monster movies, and is absolutely hilarious.
And as the list began with a difficult spot, it ends with one as well. I considered Zorro for “Z”, but in truth I just haven’t seen very many Zorro films. So Zooey Deschanel fills in the last spot, though I haven’t seen too many of her films either. She’s usually playing some hipster girl who cheers up some hapless schlub, but she plays the part well. There are worse ways to fill out a tough letter.
And there’s my movie alphabet. Some of the spots were filled largely because there wasn’t anything else to fill them with, and lots of them might be subject to change over time. But that’s all right. It was fun to do, even if it was a lot of work. Thank you to Mettel Ray for hosting the blog-a-thon.