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A very very dumb blockbuster
Twister is one of the most successful hollywood movies in recent years, and that is probably a good thing for hollywood, but it is a very very bad thing for any movie fan with an appreciation of movies beyond seeing neat things blow up. This is a stupid, preposterous and cliched tale that has implausibly sent the hollywood disaster movie back to even before the unfortunate Earthquake. And how many awful rip offs did this three-second attention-span, brain-dead farce spawn? Well, given the creative genius in hollywood, your guess of far too many is an unfortunately low estimate.
Why did this movie suck so bad, when so many people went to see it and apparently loved it? Well, I have no desire to insult the American viewing public's intelligence (Twister did that enough for many, many reviews), but I will delight in telling you the myriad of ways that this movie insulted my intelligence, not to mention my $8 that I could have used to eat two artery closing servings of mozzarella sticks!
Well, first of all, Cary Elwes turn was a "bad" storm chaser was so one demensional and unneccesary that it was hard to remember why we even liked him in "The Princess Bride." Also, the "good" storm chasers were so unique and colorful that they made me want to throw up. There were many talented actors who were forced to say lines of dialogue so lame that they were dated twenty years ago. And if I hear that term "Thumb of God" again...
OK, I'm working myself up. I mean, this is only a stupid action picture, right? I guess it is, but when stupid action pictures make $200 million, we get Volcano and Dante's Peak instead of fare that may actually require someone to, dare I say, THINK. Clearly, no one on either side of the camera was asked to do much thinking with this film.
But how about the Special Effects? Weren't they great? Well, yes, I guess they were, but with cartoonish characters and plum awful dialogue, do we really care how realistic a cow flying is? God, I hope not, but maybe I'm alone in this opinion. Still, though, to think that 20 John Sayles pictures could have been funded by the amount they spent on this thoughtless drivel makes this movie going experience all the more frustrating.
Is Twister the worst movie I have ever seen? I would have to say no. But while Police Academy 5: Mission to Moscow probably influenced no other movies other than, god help us, Police Academy 6, Twister has influenced Hollywood, negatively, for the past five years. I could have been happy without the legacy that has spawned Independence Day, Armageddon, Volcano, Dante's Peak, and might have for all we know inexplicably prolonged the career of Jean Claude Van Damme (Hey, we have to blame that on somebody). So, there we have it. Twister. To quote the genius of H.L. Mencken, who describes the success of this movie forty five years before it's unfortunate arrival "No one has ever lost money underestimating the intellect of the American Public." No, H.L., they haven't, and some have even made $200M.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
It's a Wonderful Movie
In one of the great stories of this century, we meet George Bailey, who in a desperate moment is shown how his life touches so many others. It is a story of a man who has given up money, adventure, and excitement in favor of integrity, loyalty, and sacrifice. It is a loving tribute to everyone who knows the value of making a house a home, and making a place a community. Jimmy Stewart, as George Bailey, is able to effortlessly give us such a man, but he is also able to give us a flawed hero who is at the end of his rope. It is when he sees what life would be like without him that he truly appreciates his "wonderful life." While this film was billed as a romance, and Donna Reed and Jimmy Stewart do not disappoint on that end, director Frank Capra is going for something deeper than romance. What he is aiming at, and succeeds like few have done before or since, is to demonstrate the value in placing people above money, integrity over opportunity, and sacrifice over adventure. While these values have been demonstrated in movies before, none have done so with Capra's poetry.
Dazed and Confused (1993)
A great film and a total blast
Dazed and Confused simply and delightfully tells the story of the last day of school in a Texas town in 1976. It has no plot, but that isn't the point. Its point is to create a time and place that is chock full of memories, and a lot of fun. It gets every detail right. It gets the bicentennial celebration, the gas prices, the iron-on shirts, and even the hero's nickname right. It also get the hierarchy of the school correct as well. Nerds do not have pocket protectors, not all football players are ass holes, and not everybody wants to have sex. What we get is a funny, enjoyable, richly observed day in the life of Texas high school teens. The performances are great (many of the young actors have become famous since the movie's release), the dialogue is fully realized, and the soundtrack could put a grin on even the dourest member of that generation. What makes this film wonderful is the appreciation of the moment that writer/director Richard Linklater shows us. We feel like we are watching life as it actually happens, full of spontaneity, as opposed to the manufactured, plot-driven events and dialogue that most movies give us. That means we care about these characters, and as importantly, we are there with them, experiencing life on a hazy day in May where there might or might not be a kegger.
Animal House (1978)
Seven years of college down the drain!!!
Unlike many of the films on this list, Animal House is not a great moral and intellectual film designed to enlighten. It is a raunchy, lewd, crude, and sometimes offensive comedy. It is also one of the funniest movies ever made. While Airplane! has exploited the most inane of comedy (to winning effect, I might add), Animal House shows a great knowledge of human behavior, insecurity, college life, and human truths, and then spins it all on its head to great delight and amusement. The opening scene which shows two Freshman pledging a fraternity where they are clearly not wanted is the first of many laughs that rely on our sophisticated view of the world. And while Animal House does not disappoint on any level, it is the intelligent irreverence that makes Animal House as much fun as you can have watching a movie.
Field of Dreams (1989)
A Beuatiful tribute to an elegant game
There are not many films about talking cornfields, and that is probably a good thing. In almost any other film, it would most assuredly be a case for snickering. But Field of Dreams isn't any other film, and the talking cornfield begins one of the most beautiful and poetic pilgrimages ever shown on film. This film is about baseball, and it understands what all that love the game do: It is not the game itself, but how in connects us to each other, and to the past, that makes watching it a religious experience. The way the film moves us to that realization is slowly, lovingly, and with pure joy. This film never comes close to stepping wrong. While watching a scene where a Doctor gives up his dream to save a child, I noticed that I was hugging myself. I was hoping that the rest of the film would stay as pure and as wondrous. I needed not to worry. In touching poetry, the meaning of the voice is revealed, and then it gives us a visually spine chilling last scene. This is a perfect movie, and a beautiful tribute to an elegant game.
Say Anything... (1989)
Lloyd Dobbler... all right!!!
There are few characters that are as fully realized as Lloyd Dobbler in the history of film. Lloyd is a 19 year old without a career path, but with an unflinching love of Diane Court, a beautiful genius. It is John Cusack's ability to turn a well written character into one of the most empathetic and enjoyable characters in recent film that has made this such a wonderful movie experience. Ione Skye is almost as strong as Diane Court, who doesn't overplay her intelligence, naiveté, or caring nature. And John Mahoney is wonderful as Diane's father, a flawed man who loves his daughter, perhaps too much. Overall, this is an intensely likable film about characters we care a great deal about, and in a story that is true and honest to its characters.
Goodfellas is the rhythm to the Godfather's melody
Martin Scorcese has been one of the most important film makers of all time, and while he has made more thoughtful and introspective films than Goodfellas, he has never made a better or more enjoyable one. Goodfellas is a wonderfully full and well acted film about life in the mob. Unlike the Godfather, it doesn't romanticize the mob, but gives us insight into the details of its life. It also shows us one man's decent into drug addiction and violence. The film is long, but uses every second to give us a fuller picture of Henry Hill's life. Ray Liotta is wonderful as Henry Hill, a man who only slowly realizes he has gotten way over his head. Joe Pesci's performance is rightfully considered a classic, and DeNiro gives us what he always gives us- this time in a supporting role. Goodfellas knows the rhythm and beat about living in the mob, and while The Godfather gives us the melody, Goodfellas gives us its equally important counterpart.
Citizen Kane (1941)
As good as advertised
Citizen Kane is perhaps the most important film ever made. It's innovations of cinematography and plot are amazing even almost sixty years later. It is a sight to behold. It is all those things, but it is also just an enjoyable film to watch. Orson Wells tells the story of Charles Foster Kane, who goes from idealistic to ambitious, to a corporate monster. The way that Wells lets this brilliant story unfold is breathtaking, as is his entire troupe, who never push us further than we are willing to go. And the last scene, with the words Rosebud coming from Wells lips, maybe the most famous and best exclamation point in movie history.
The Graduate (1967)
A biting satire against upper middle class boredom
Dustin Hoffman's offbeat, quirky, Benjamin Braddock is one of the most interesting and realized characters in movie history. His cluelessness and disillusion after college, and the resulting affair with the infamous Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), are told in such a empathetic way that you completely understand the choices he is making, even though they are the result of sporadic behavior and poor judgment. This leads to perhaps the most gratifying ending in movie history, as our hero breaks free from upper middle class oppression to make a wild and romantic gesture that ultimately may save him from the unoriginality his life seemed destined to be heading towards. Katherine Ross is delightful as the object of Benjamin's unique affection, and the soundtrack is the perfect punctuation point for Benjamin's confusion and desperation.
Dances with Wolves (1990)
A tale that should have been told long before
Dances With Wolves is a sweeping, touching, apology for the genocide of almost all the Native American people by the United States Government. Kevin Costner shows patience and an eye for the beauty of serenity in his direction, acting, and writing. His film is three hours and is slow, but instead of dragging, he gives us a gentle appreciation for the Native American culture and its love of nature. It is three hours of beautiful poetry, and tells a tale that should have been told long before.