I loved you on this day. I love this memory.

Eternal-Sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind (2)

Relationships end sometimes.  It’s a fact of life.  You fall in love, inevitably something goes wrong.  You grow apart, you fight, you may have financial troubles – the causes are limitless.  It’s a hard fact of life, and it’s rarely easy.  Sometimes a hard break up can lead people to drink, to look for temporary fulfillment of some kind, to hit bottom.  The point is, it’s a messy part of life.  Emotions are hard, and dealing with loss is a very hurtful and difficult process.

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” explores the idea of the broken relationship with the idea of simply wiping it away.  One day you hurt from the loss, the next you wake up with no memory of it – and by “it” I mean no memory of the entire relationship.  Every movie you saw, every dinner you ate, every single day and every possible memory associated with that person is simply gone.  The idea is tempting I’m sure, particularly when the wounds are fresh.  But if a person is the sum of his memories, what happen when the memories are taken away?

This is one of those strange little screenplays by Charlie Kaufman.  He’s the man who brought us such films as “Being John Malkovich”, “Human Nature”, and “Adaptation” (for the last one he created his own fictional twin brother to assist in writing the screenplay for the un-filmable book “The Orchid Thief”).  There is a thematic element to all of his films involving memories, the human experience, and control of ones own consciousness that is indescribable.  He doesn’t write normal stories, but rather stories about normal people in highly abnormal and unreal situations.  This particular story is told slightly out of order from a narrative sense, with the first scene in the film being one of the last ones in the story, not to mention all the flashbacks within Joel’s memory as it is being erased, but more on that later.



Quite simply it is the story of a couple (Clementine and Joel) who are just meeting for the first time.  They see one another on a train and begin an awkward conversation much like the ones most of us have when we meet someone new for the first time.  Joel is intrigued by Clementine from the beginning.  They spend the night together, and that’s all we see.  We are now taken to a completely different point in time.  Joel and Clementine have broken up and Joel is severely distraught over it.  He goes to find her to see if they can patch it up, but she doesn’t even recognize him.  Eventually friends tell him she has had a process done to wipe the memory of him and their entire history from her mind.  Not believing this is possible he visits the clinic.  Upon hearing a tape of Clementine stating why she wanted the process done, Joel decides to also go through with it.  This is where the movie takes us down the metaphorical rabbit hole.

What would mapping our memories look like?  Would it go in a fairly straight line or would it be a web of little cognitive links making us associate certain experiences, smells, sounds with certain people and places?  I personally think it would be an amazingly complex mess that only the most brilliant well trained people could possibly hope to understand.  That’s not who performs the process on Joel.  Basically the technicians are the rough equivalent of cable installation guys.  They pop in, place a contraption on Joel’s head and let the computer go to work wiping Clementine from his brain.  What the techs fail to know, however, is that the brain is quite aware when it’s being messed with.



From this point we see their relationship in reverse.  Instead of seeing their first meeting (again?), we see a drunken argument.  but over this is Joel’s narration knowing what happens next.  He knows these memories are leaving him and isn’t sad to see them go.  But inevitably, memories soon come that he wants to keep.  The memories of the good days are going to go to.  This isn’t a good thing at all, and he starts taking measures inside his own mind to protect the memory of Clementine.  Time falls apart as a childhood past is suddenly crashing in on a very adult future.  Horrific and embarrassing memories that Clementine, at least the Clementine of his mind, is now privy to.

eternal sunshine of the spotless mind 2004

Meanwhile as the drama in Joel’s head continues, there is a completely different story involving the technicians, the Doctor in charge, and his assistant.  The stories develop in parallel both in Joel’s apartment, and in his head.   It’s really a fantastic piece of story telling all around That Michael Gondry directs absolutely fearlessly.

I have seen this film several times as it relates to me on a very personal level.  I am 43 years old now, and have had my share of relationships.  Some ended amicably, and some ended very badly.  When the sting of a breakup was very fresh I can understand wanting to wipe it all from my mind.  Wanting to forget I ever even knew that person.  However, time heals all wounds.  I am able to look back on many of those memories quite fondly.  The bad stuff gets mostly forgotten, but the good memories remain.  I don’t want to forget many of the movies I saw, places I visited, and quiet moments I enjoyed in the past with someone who was quite special to me at the time.   Those experiences, for good are bad, made me who I am today.

In addition to the story, this film has an extremely unique the visual style.  The film never seems to look unreal, even when memory is crumbling and cars are falling from the sky.  It looks like a hyper real dream throughout.  It looks like a human mind having a very bad reaction to being messed with, rebelling in every sense combining elements and memories that simply don’t belong together.  It’s a dream and a nightmare at the same time, yet feels extremely poignant and personal.

eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind (1)


The performances in this film are all elevated by the material the actors have at their disposal.  Jim Carey is a different man in this film than we have ever seen.  He gives a very subtle performance full of feeling and raw emotion.  Kate Winslet is a free spirit who really seems to embrace the role as if it were in fact written specifically for her.  The Technicians, played with wry humor and a little bit of creepiness by Elijah Wood and Mark Ruffalo add the right amount of comic relief, while Tim Wilkinson and Kirsten Dunst provide a tragic counterpoint.



Selecting movies for this blog isn’t always an easy task.  I have said before that movies can be very personal, that all appreciation for a film is deeply subjective.  We all have our own experiences when we watch a movie, and that experience could be entirely different based on when and how we see it.  This is a film a lot of people won’t like, or maybe won’t get.  That’s fine.  To me it was a very human film dealing with very human thoughts and emotions.  It’s a movie about the lessons we learn in life, and accepting them rather than running from them.  Embracing pain, not shying away from it.  In the end, every experience has something to teach us.



New York New York, It’s a Wonderful Town!!!!



There are a a few movies I turn to when my mood sours.  Many of them are silly comedies, and more still are musicals.  I have been happy to see a return to the musical in recent years, and happier still to see the film going audience respond favorably to this re-emergence of one of the great film genres.  There are a lot of great musicals from the golden age of the Hollywood musical, but “On the Town” holds a very special place in my heart.

If you aren’t familiar with the movie, it’s a simple enough premise.  It’s the story of three sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin) on 24 hour shore leave in New York.  In their 24 hours they plan to do everything you could imagine them wanting to do – seeing the sites, picking up girls, and having a night on the town in the city that never sleeps.  It all sounds simple enough, and probably is.

However, this isn’t ordinary New York as we know it.  This is a singing dancing beautiful New York.   A New York that can be seen in its entirety during the opening number of “New York, New York” (Not the Liza Minelli/Sinatra Version, a completely different song people).  From the opening sequence of a dock worker slowly walking to his job, we know this is no ordinary New York.  Why?  Because he is singing in a baritone voice about how he fees still asleep.  I love this, as it immediately sets us up for what follows.  This is a musical place.  People sing in this world.  This opening establishes this fictional version of New York, and all that follows therefore seems normal.

On The Town 1949 4


Their adventure leads them through the subways, into the museums, and eventually to the top of the Empire State building.  The only truly discernible plot involves Kelly’s character Gabey falling for a girl he meets at a dance studio.  A girl who is the current “Miss Turnstiles” (Vera Allen) of the New York subway system.  She, unbeknownst to him, is also from the same small town as Gabey.  She studies dance, but to pay for the classes she works as a cooch dancer at Coney Island, and hides this fact from Gabey.  She is forced to go to work in the middle of the night under the threat of her dance teacher, and sets Gabey on a search for her.

There is also the sub-plot of Chip (Sinatra) and Hildy (Betty Garret) trying to get some time together.  He wants to sight see, but she is far more aggressive constantly shutting down the sight seeing he wants to do with her repeated invitation to come up to her place.  Meanwhile Ozzie (Munshin) and Claire (a supposed Anthropology student played by Ann Miller) vanish for most of the film after Miller’s musical number “Modern Man”.  I think we are to assume that they are also doing something similar to Chip and Hildy . . . ahem.  It’s a simple film, absent of most of the conflict we are used to seeing, but lighthearted and enjoyable.  The concerns are trivial small town concerns in the big city of New York.

This was the first musical shot on location in New York City and the film makers reveled in the famous sights they could use such as Rockefeller Center and the Statue of Liberty.  It was also a Gene Kelly musical, which means we are treated to not one, but two musical dream sequences – early precursors to the epic fantasy sequence in “An American in Paris”.  While I find that sequence to be overlong and pretentious, I actually like the fantasy sequences in this film.  They, like the rest of the film, are lighthearted and not trying to prove any point, but rather trying to entertain us.


One other small detail, this movie features the first example ever of a digital clock.  It scrolls along the screen to let us know what time it is in reference to the 24 hours the sailors have ashore.  Why is this important?  Because there were no digital clocks yet.  Just a little bit of trivia – the digital clock was invented by a Hollywood Musical.


I love this movie.  I love the music,  the sets, the subtle and not so subtle humor throughout.  I love the suggestive overtones of Hildy and Chip’s songs, and Claire’s reference to really loving “Bear Skin” in reference to prehistoric man.  On their night of clubbing there is a great running gag that every club essentially does the same floor show, just with different costumes.  It’s a movie filled with small details that always bring a smile to my face.  Even just thinking about it now I am grinning and humming the songs.  It’s one of the greats, and I will always remember it.




Once Upon a Time in the West


I know I haven’t posted about movies in a while.  My personal life has had some upheaval, and I have been struggling with a few things.  This hasn’t changed my feelings about movies, but rather my ability to write about them.  So in this return to writing, I thought I would do something I told myself I wouldn’t do on this site, and that is write about my personal favorite movie of all time, “Once Upon a Time in the West”.

The reason I was going to avoid this film is because I was concerned that such an entry would turn into nothing but a few paragraphs of me saying how amazing it was, but without substance of any kind.  I thought I would talk about the brilliance of casting Henry Fonda as the bad guy, the amazing score by Ennio Morricone, the epic credit sequence that opens the film – but I would never quite be able to say what makes it so amazing to someone reading this.  I would just speak on and on.

Then I realized, that is the point of this little blog I started.  This isn’t about justifying what makes movies great, it is merely about the greatness of films.  Movies can be objectively or subjectively great.  There are films we all know are masterpieces.  Such films as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Citizen Kane” are films of such importance that their greatness simply can’t be denied.  But there are films, be they great films or not, that to each viewer means a different thing, or perhaps touches a different nerve, to such an extent that the viewers while watching the same film have entirely different experiences.


To explain this film, and its meaning to me, I have to give you a little history.  I was a Humanities student and had been doing a lot of film genre study.  Western genre is perhaps one the most rigidly constructed genres s basically every great western follows a very specific set of characters and rules.  I had watched and enjoyed many westerns that played with these rules a little, and of course had a familiarity with the films of Sergio Leone as far as the so-called “Man With No Name” films were concerned.  However, this film at the time was seldom discussed along with Leone’s “Fistful of Dollars” and “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.  I learned of its existence while discussing the roles of Henry Fonda in a unit devoted to what was referred to as “Star Study” (mainly associated with how the presence of an actor redefined a film).  This all sounds pretentious and all, and it was.  I didn’t get into the star study concept at all, but when I saw the clip of Henry Fonda, and his entrance into this film, I was speechless.  The soundtrack, Fonda’s ruthless manner, the landscape – I had to see this movie.

I rented the film the a few days later and watched it twice in the same weekend.  If you have seen this movie you know that it clocks in well over 3 hours, so this was an achievement.  To this day if I stumble on it on TV I have to sit and watch a t least a few minutes of it.

Can I talk about why it’s a great movie?  I suppose I can, but again it often comes out as “it’s just awesome”.  Mainly because I really can’t define much of it.  There is very little dialogue for such a long film.  There are numerous shots of sweeping western vistas (particularly of Monument Valley).  There are also several sequences built upon the extreme close-ups Leoni had a fondness for in his other westerns.  Men in his world communicate by staring.  The story reveals itself slowly in an interesting narrative take.  It emerges piece by piece until it all makes sense.  Claudia Cardinale, absolutely stunning in her role, navigates her way through a world she is completely unfamiliar with, but figures out quite quickly.  She may be alone, she may be in the middle of nowhere, scared and alone, but she is portrayed as neither a victim nor weak.

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

The soundtrack though is a masterpiece,  The slow visual nature of the film would be nothing without the beautiful and often bizarre score by the legendary Ennio Morricine.  There is no wailing such as in the soundtrack for “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”, but instead haunting harmonica’s, distorted electric guitars, honky tonk piano, and operatic female voices.  It is a rare example of a film and a score that simply would not work without the other one being present.

For the last 20 years or so, ever since I saw this movie, I have known the answer to the question “what is your favorite movie”.  My reasons for it being my favorite have changed, but it being my favorite hasn’t changed.  It is a movie that doesn’t age.  It doesn’t get old.  It doesn’t get boring.  It stands alone as an amazing film.  It’s a strange film.  It’s a stranger Western in terms of the definition of the genre.  The story is that Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, and others decided to write and make a western that involved every plot of the great westerns in one film.  They managed to touch on so many stories from westerns such as revenge, western expansion, the railroad, the loss of the frontier, the violence, the savagery, and the beauty of the American West – and they did it all in one film.


It’s a personal thing to have a favorite movie.  It’s a strangely personal thing to talk about it.  I doubt it is as interesting for you all to read about this as it is for me to talk about it, which is why I had some trepidation about this entry.  Nonetheless, I had to get over this hurdle, and nothing helps more than talking about your favorite movie sometimes.

The Muppet Christmas Carol


‘Tis the Season to be Jolly and Joyous!

For those of you that read this blog you may recall I mentioned 4 movies I watch every season.  “The Ref”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “A Christmas Story”, and this one – “A Muppet Christmas Carol”.  There are several reasons that this film is special to me.  First and foremost is the brilliance of the story and the extremely literate translation of Dickens’ original book.  Second is a very special place in my heart set aside for specifically for The Muppets – especially Kermit The Frog.  There is also the great music, and of course Michael Caine’s brilliant performance a Scrooge.

There is little point in a synopsis, as if you aren’t familiar with the story by now there is probably little point.  What makes this telling fantastic though is the selection of specific Muppets for the roles they play.  Kermit is Bob Cratchit seems easy enough, and Miss Piggy as his wife is of course necessary.  However, the rest of the Muppets that we all know and love of course have specific character traits, and these traits are blended into the characters they play, adding humor and attachment, while never taking away from the serious nature of the story.  Statler and Waldorf as the Marleys is a great choice, of course the selection required there to be 2 Marleys instead of one which, for the sake of good comedy I am OK with.  Fozzie Bear as “Fozziwig” (instead of Fezziwig in the Dickens’ story) is another obvious choice.   The whole story is of course narrated by Charles Dickens himself, that is to say by The Great Gonzo, who plays the part with a true attention to detail.  All in all it’s great to see many familiar Muppet faces throughout the film, and some new ones as well.


Doomed Scrooge! You’re Doomed for all time!

Those new Muppets are of course the ghosts of past, present, and future.  There isn’t any attempt ad adding humor to their dialogue.  It is directly off the page of Dickens text.  Their interaction with Scrooge is as true as it is in any of the “live action” versions of the same story.  The ghost of Christmas Past is a sort of childlike spirit, with a great amount of creep factor about her.  Her words come rather matter of factly, and with very little emotion.  The Ghost of Christmas Present changes throughout, being a joyous sort with a very short termed memory as he is only concerned with the here and now.  The ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is suitably spooky, presented as always as a specter of death, but only muppetly more so.


What have you got for old Joe?


Michael Caine is the glue that hold the whole experience of this Christmas Carol together.  His interactions with his Muppet cast members is absolutely brilliant, and you never doubt for a second he accepts their authenticity.  He plays Scrooge with a great absence of humor, that turns into remorse, and finally rebirth in the ultimate scenes, and he plays the whole thing with a dedication I didn’t expect in a Muppet version of the film.  His performance is, to me, what turned this into more than a fun Muppet film, but into my personal favorite interpretation of the classic story.

I would also like to say this version includes a scene many interpretations of this story doesn’t.  When Scrooge is with the Ghost of Christmas yet to Come they visit the business of a spider who buys, shall we say, items of interest without caring from whence they come.  In this scene he is buying the items that once belonged to Scrooge that are being sold to him by his former maids and housekeepers.  It’s a scene that I find very dark, and always understood its absence from other versions of the film as some might find it just too somber.  It struck me odd that the Muppet version of the story would be one of the few filmed interpretations of the story to include it.  Leave it to the version we all thought would be the silliest to include one of the darkest scenes.

I didn’t intend this to be a long post, I merely wanted to post another great film for the season.  One I usually enjoy every Christmas Eve.  I like to think that there are others out there watching their favorite Christmas movies at the same time, and maybe a few are also tearing up when Tiny Tim (played by Kermit’s nephew Robin) sings Bless us all, and softly coughs at the end of the song while Scrooge visits with the Ghost of Christmas Present.  I hope there are other choking back tears when Kermit talks about the death of Tiny Tim, and how he would love his spot in the graveyard where he can see the ducks.  Tiny Tim always loved to watch the ducks.


Bless us all, who gather here


But when it’s over, it reminds you what Christmas is.  It’s a time for thanks, giving, and appreciating those that you love and what you have.  It’s about sharing when you are able, and taking care of those in need.  And it’s about keeping that Christmas spirit all through the year.

Mostly, It’s a film about being human.  Leave it to the Muppets to teach us how to be human.

The Mighty Quinn


I have sat half the day wondering how to start this post, and I am tired of thinking about it, so I am just going to start.  The Mighty Quinn is one of those movies that makes you remember how good movies can be.  How much they can involve you in the lives of characters you have never known, yet from the very start seem familiar.  How they can take you to a place you have probably never been, yet make you feel you immediately understand that place and the people in it.  It’s a mystery, a love story, a thriller, and a comedy.  It came out when I was in college, yet I didn’t see it until several years later – most didn’t.  It wasn’t a big film, but it was a great one.

It is the story of Xavier Quinn (Denzel Washington), a police officer in Jamaica currently estranged from his wife.  He spends what little time he can with his son, but most if his life is devoted to his job of keeping the peace with the locals – a job he is very good at.  His childhood friend Mawbee, (Robert Townsend) gets mixed up in the murder of a millionaire, and now the intrigue starts.


Quinn doesn’t believe that Mawbee could possibly be a murderer, even though all the evidence directly implicates him.  There are other parties interested in Mawbee too, including a Latin American man, and an American who says he represents the Estate of Mr. Pater (the murdered man).  Everyone seems to be looking for Mawbee, who, like Bugs Bunny who he is always compared to, seems to be able to pop up at will, and vanish just as quickly.  It is quickly evident that there is a lot more to this murder than meets the eye.

This movie is about friendship, and temptation.  It is about deceit and truth, and knowing how to tell the difference.  There is a little feeling of the end of British imperialism is the character of James Fox, and there is a love of the country and people of Jamaica. In addition there is some great music, both of the Jamaican Reggae, as well as some classic blues and island-ized Bob Dylan.


The performances are brilliant from Washington and Townsend.  You get the feeling that Mawbee has never learned how to frown, and Quinn has forgotten how to laugh.  Their friendship is a genuine one that has lasted years, though both chose truly different life directions.  The supporting cast which includes Sheryl Lee Ralph, James Fox, Mimi Rodgers, and M. Emmett Walsh is also absolutely brilliant.

The setting of Jamaica, where the film was shot, is perfect for this story.  If you have ever visited Jamaica you will understand what I mean.  This is a very poor nation that relies on tourism for its survival.  Inside the resorts it is a different world from what Jamaica is actually like, and this film shows that.  The government is moderately corrupt, but does its best.  However, when the wealthy resort owners make demands, the government has little choice but to follow them lest they risk hurting the tourism trade.


However, the people in Jamaica are happy.  They are the type of people that wear their Sunday Best, and know how to do it, to church every Sunday.  They have little, but appreciate everything they have.  This film never seems to forget that, and is a great depiction of a nation and its people.

The Mighty Quinn is a great film, and like all great films I could go on and on about the cast, the direction, the music, and the choice of setting.  It’s one of those rare films when everything came together to tell a story, and never made you question its validity or impossibility for a second.  Could $10,000 bills be used to fund a war in Central America?  Who the hell knows – but it works.

All I know, is I want to hang out on the beach with Quinn, Mawbee, and a bottle of rum.  So Irie, Irie Mon.  and don’t forget, Come on without, Come on Within, you ain’t seen nothin’ like the Mighty Quinn.

The Ref – Merry Christmas!


Being that it’s the Holiday season, I felt I should do a Christmas movie.  I may actually do another before the season is out.  I mean we could talk about “It’s a Wonderful Life”, “A Christmas Story”, or the Alistair Sim version of “A Christmas Carol”, but everyone knows those and they are on all the time during the season.  I decided that the first bit of Christmas awesomeness worth discussing is “The Ref”, because it features a great cast, brilliant dialogue, and is just damn funny.

This is the story of a professional thief, Gus (played by Dennis Leary),who gets trapped in a small New England town on Christmas Eve after a robbery of an amusement park magnate’s house.  In an effort to find shelter from the police and escape the road blocks they have set up he kidnaps a couple (played by Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis), imprisoning them in their own home while he plans his escape.  However, it’s not that simple.  This particular couple is going through marriage counseling and have a terrible relationship at the moment, leading to constant bickering.  The family is on their way for Christmas Eve Dinner, a drunken local Santa keeps popping by, and all the while a door to door search is being conducted by the police.

The tension mounts through the whole film as the family is constantly arguing, and Gus, posing as the  Chasseurs’ (it’s 18th century French Hugonaut) marriage counselor, is forced to endure it.   The family is held together by their matriarch, played by the lovely Glynis Johns (the mom from Mary Poppins).  This is the most amazing uber-bitch character in recent film comedies.  She is insulting to everyone around her – yet everyone is afraid to say anything because she controls the money and hence all their lives.  When Gus has had enough of her he says what we are all thinking – “your husband ain’t dead lady, he’s hiding”.


And I haven’t mentioned their son, who is blackmailing the commandant at his military school.  This ain’t a Norman Rockwell Christmas.

This is a movie about relationships and what happens to them when everyone is afraid to say anything to one another about what is really bothering them.  All that tension that people allow to bottle up inside them because they are afraid of rocking the boat.  This is a movie about a catalyst, Gus, arriving and making all of that explode at once, with hysterical consequences.  Through it all Dennis Leary is stuck being the referee.  At times sitting back and giggling to himself as it all unfolds, and other times stepping in and forcing it to go a new direction.

It’s a movie filled with conflict, that at times seems real, at other times is a bit exaggerated  but never comes off as forced.  The performances are fantastic.  Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis honestly seem like that couple who have so many things they are angry about, but have never voiced those things to one another, choosing instead to bicker about the things that don’t matter.  Gus’s arrival and the conversation his presence brings about, causes the things that do matter to come to the surface.  Upon the films conclusion we don’t know if they will be better now, but at least the conversation has been started.  We don’t know if Gus will be successful in getting out of the country, but at least he has a chance.  This is not a movie about resolutions, but about creating the environment in which resolutions might occur.


The films being set at Christmas is no accident.  Christmas and Thanksgiving are the the only two holidays that involve the family – the entire extended family – getting together.  Family relationships aren’t always the rosiest to say the least.  The  Chasseur family is a fairly typical one, with fairly typical squabbles.  Those squabbles are usually glossed over on the holidays in the interest of holding the family together, and making the holidays a time of peace and joy.  Not this time.

So this holiday season, you can enjoy the usual Christmas classics, but perhaps you can add this little film to your list.  It will make you laugh, and perhaps appreciate your own family a little more.  I know there are three films I watch every holiday season.  This one, two of the ones mentioned earlier in this post, and one other I am holding in my pocket for another post.

I hope you enjoy the movie, and as always I welcome your comments.  Also, I wish a Happy Holiday Season to all.

The American President

American President

Today’s movie of awesomeness is “The American President”.  I know I will hear something from my conservative friends on this one.  However, before you start screaming at me about this being a liberal propaganda piece, I will explain in detail why this movie is awesome, as it has little, if anything, to do with politics.

I should preface this post by saying my personal political leanings are on the left side of the aisle.  This is no secret to anyone who knows me as I wear my politics on my sleeve.  However, I can only hope at least of few of you do not know me, so I felt I should get that out there.  This is a movie about a President who is obviously a left leaning president.  However, it is more about a President trying to be a President and a human being at the same time.  One of the things I can’t help but think is weird about being the President of the United States is that nothing you ever do is a private matter anymore.  An argument, a new dog, an odd choice of neck wear, a laugh at an off color joke – all of it is subject to public scrutiny.  And with today’s 24 hour new cycle, it has to be to fill the time.  The news networks, for the most part, feed of the conflict and the partisan nature of the political scene, because conflict creates ratings.  No one cares about peaceful discussions, they want fireworks.  At its core this film is about that constant struggle that the most powerful man in the world has with that constant scrutiny, and his desire to be a normal person.

If you haven’t seen the film I will summarize it briefly.  The current president, Andrew Shepherd, was elected by a thin margin a few years earlier, but has since won public approval – the polls are up and everyone knows he will win re-election in a walk.  However, it comes to light that his wife passed a couple years before his Presidential campaign, so the attacks against him in the previous campaign were limited as polling showed his opposition that attacking a widower who recently lost a wife to cancer was a turn off to independent voters.  Enter Sydney Wade, a lobbyist for an environmental action group.  Andrew is immediately smitten with her and wants to ask her out on a date.  Against the advice of his staff he does so and immediately Sydney is front page news.  The president’s private relationship becomes a round the clock source for tabloid journalism, and the other sides exploits his relationship as an assault on so-called “family-values”.

The American President

It’s an interesting topic to say the least.  What would the American public make of a president, single or widowed as this example is, having a girlfriend?  You must remember that this film came out shortly after the Lewinsky scandal, so we had some idea of how they might be presented it with it, but let’s say it wasn’t an affair, but was a normal relationship.  Would we be treated to this type of journalism, would one political side try to exploit it to use against the other?  Is the President entitled to at least a little normalcy in his life?  The questions the movie asks are valid ones.

Towards the end of the film, Andrew has lost Sydney due to a political move he was forced to make to pass a signature piece of legislation.  His polls are down, not on political or issue based points, but solely on character.  The official White House position on his private relationship is “No Comment”.  But all that changes.  He steps into a routine press conference and tells it like it is.  My favorite line is “I was so busy trying to keep my job, that I forgot to do my job”.  As someone who follow politics closely, don’t you wish that someone would say that?  Anyway – after about 5 minutes of speaking to the shocked press he steps out out and prepares to deliver the State of the Union.  Nothing has changed but he let the other side know that he isn’t going to take it lying down anymore, and if they want a fight they are going to get one.

So why should my conservative friends not like me for saying this movie is awesome?  First of all the Republican opposition doesn’t look so good in this movie.  They look petty and opportunistic.  However, one could say this of anyone in politics.  The President is obviously a charismatic and likable character.  He is also obviously a liberal Democrat, though party is never mentioned.  How do we know this?  Because the two primary pieces of legislation are a crime bill limiting access to assault weapons and handguns, and a fossil fuels package to lower emissions by 20% – obviously liberal policies.  However, I would really challenge anyone to make a hero of a character that wanted to raise emissions and make assault weapons easier to obtain.  It wouldn’t work.  That would be like saying Mr. Potter in “It’s A Wonderful Life” is the hero, and not George Bailey.


So why do the politics not ultimately matter in this movie?  Because they are a McGuffin (see Alfred Hitchcock).  The politics of the film are irrelevant as they are simply a plot device to create conflict.  The real story is about a President trying to be a normal person.  I recently was reading an article about President Obama written by someone who was given very close access to follow around and watch and interview when time allowed.  One story he shared was about ow the president doesn’t watch the 24 hours news networks, instead preferring TV’s to be on ESPN.   However, one day he walked back into the room to find a staffer had turned on a news channel, and they were discussing a recent decision by the President.  After one of the TV persona’s gave a long reason for the why of the president’s decision, President Obama simply stated “Oh, so that’s why I did it”.  Regardless of politics, imagine being the guy always being talked about, always being discussed, always being scrutinized.  Imagine hearing why you did things by someone who has never met you.  This movie isn’t about politics, it’s about our society, and the soundbite mentality of political campaigns, and what the American people decide is their business – whether it should be or not.

There are a lot of things about this movie I love, from what has to be one of Michael Douglas’s finest performances, to Annette Benning’s almost casual performance as Sydney Wade.   A great supporting cast featuring Michael J. Fox, Martin Sheen, Richard Dreyfuss, and David Paymer.  The direction by Rob Reiner is fantastic and never feels forced or manipulative.  But mostly it’s the great script by Aaron Sorkin (yes, this would eventually turn into “The West Wing” for him – taking Martin Sheen along for the ride) that makes this movie so appealing.  I know there are many people out there who won’t like it for the left leaning views of the main characters, but put that aside and watch it for what it is – a fictional story about a fictional president passing fictional legislation.

Try to enjoy it for being about the people and not the politics.

Then, try to tell me it’s not an awesome movie.  I will listen.

Party on Dude!!!!! (Bill and Ted’s excellent Adventure)

Whoah . . . . (a star is born)


I need to start this post with a preface for those of you who haven’t read what this blog is about.  It is about “awesome” movies.  The movies that for some inexplicable reason, are simply awesome – no explanation necessary.  The movie of discussion today is by no means a great movie.  I think it is at the least a good movie – and it is, without question, awesome.  Yes, Bill and Ted have a most Excellent Adventure.

It is the story of 2 teenage high school kids, Bill and Ted, from San Dimas, California, who will someday in the future will prove to be the saviors of humanity, if they can manage to stay together.  Therefore, the future beings intervene, and with the help of a time machine, Bill and Ted are able to bring the greatest people in history together.  They deliver a kick ass report, and stay together to become the future uber rock group, “Wyld Stallyns”.  Of course, we know that their music will align the planets and bring about world peace, uniting all humanity.  It all makes perfect sense when you think about it (of course it doesn’t, I know that, but it’s still fantastic and a great premise for the film, I don’t care what you think).

Seriously – where to start when I talk about this one.  I was 19 years old and this was playing at a second run theater.  My freind Jeff and I decided to spend the $1.50 and go check it out.  We were both laughing along with the whole thing.  IOt was just so completely ridiculous, and entertaining and endearing, I mean how could we help it.  This turned into us taking several other friends.  Eventually I saw it six times in second run theaters in Champaign and Chicago, every time noticing a new detail, a new joke, something more ridiculous.  It made me smile and laugh every time, and it still does.

The premise of the film is delivered in the opening monologue by Rufus (played by the late George Carlin).  The two “Great Ones”, Bill and Ted, will save the universe, but they almost didn’t.  He is a professional and will make sure they stay together.  Bill and Ted are fairly average teenagers – they just aren’t doing so well in school.  If they don’t ace their oral history report, Ted will be sent to Oakes Military Academy in Alaska, thus ensuring the failure of their friendship, and their future amazing rock group “Wyld Stallyns”.  Enter Rufus, and his time machine (a phone booth, a nod to all the Doctor Who fans out there).  He stes Bill and Ted on their journey through time, where they decide to collect various personages of historical significance (their words) and bring them to the future to talk about what they think of San Dimas in the present.  No problem right?

Dust . . . wind . . . Dude!!!!

But of course there are problems.  The booth gets damaged, Ted forgets to wind his watch therefore setting up a time paradox where they meet themselves, and Genghis Kahn, Abe Lincoln, and Joan of Arc run rampant in a shopping mall – not to mention the music of Ludwig VonBeethoven crowding a piano and organ store and Napoleon being a total dick on the water slides at Waterloo’s.  Through it all Bill and Ted remain positive.  They rely and depend on one another.  They are very real friends.

The jokes in this movie  fly by so fast it’s easy to miss them (through repeated viewings I like to think I have caught them all).  There are several running gags.  My favorite involves Bill’s Step-mom Missy, who as Ted points out was a senior when they were freshmen, and he also asked her to the prom (shut up Ted!).  Another involves the complete dickishness of Napoleon (I am proud I just taught the dictionary here the word dickishness).  We all know he had a Napoleon complex . . . right?

The third act of the film, which involves the historical figures being put in jail and ingeniously getting rescued by Bill and Ted with the time machine (which we never see, they simply makes plans to use, therefore setting up the escape in advance . . . . it makes sense . . . really), is one of those parts of a movie that has you nodding and smiling, while at the same time going “would that work?” in your head.  The time paradoxes created in this film, the idea of the future being changeable while the present is fixed, the fact that no one says “Hey Abe, ya might not want to go to the theater” . . . . yeah – don’t think about all that.

This is a movie that makes me laugh more than most.  It doesn’t take any high ground, it doesn’t have any symbolism – it merely entertains.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the great films.  But while you may love great cuisine, once in a while you just crave a really good hamburger.  “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” is to me the greatest of hamburgers, done medium rare with jalepeno slices, fresh tomatoes, and pepper jack cheese.  It has everything you want in an entertaining bit of film that isn’t trying to change the world, just trying to make you laugh.

Party on Dude!!!!!!!

When the report finishes, with Abe’s epic line, and Bill and Ted are destined to stay together . . . well it’s almost sad.  Because the movie is over.  It’s the kind of ride you wish could last.

I still love this movie – that hasn’t changed in over 20 years now.  It brings me back to my younger years, a time when I was very happy.  But mostly, this movie makes me laugh.  It makes me tap my feet to the song by Big Pig that open the movie, to the song by Extreme that follows the shopping mall chase sequence.  In short, this is a movie that is non heinous, not bogus, and is in fact, most triumphant.

Bill And Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Awesome, because it’s . . . . . Excellent.





After a trio of rather dark films, I thought it was time to go to something a little more fun and lighthearted.  This would explain why today I have landed on the Jean Pierre Jeunet film “Amélie”.  The original French title for this movie was “Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain”, or, in English “The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain”  Unlike Jeunet’s previous films (i.e “The City Of Lost Children”) the subject matter of this film is decidedly whimsical, humorous, and beautiful.  It’s a movie that I watch when I am in a bad mood, because we wish the world could be like this.

The story is one of a young woman named Amélie, who is raised by her neurotic mother and a father who has little in the ways of interpersonal skills.  Like most girls, Amélie wants to be loved by her parents, but the only time her father touches her is during routine physicals (he is a physician).  This small touch from her father causes her heart to beat rapidly, and causes her father to assume she has heart trouble and therefore she leads a very sheltered childhood where her vivid imagination is her reality.  Clouds are animals, records are made like pancakes, and the woman in a coma next door is simply getting all her sleep in one go.  In one of her walks taking pictures of things with he Kodak Instamatic a neighbor tells her she caused a car accident by taking pictured of the cars involved.  After an afternoon of news viewing during which she blames herself for a train wreck among other things, she finds he was lying to her, and exacts her revenge in a way an adult would never think, and is absolutely brilliant.

Upon growing up she becomes a waitress at the Two Windmills Cafe in the neighborhood of Montmarte, Paris.  She isn’t exactly social, but the narrator, omniscient in more ways than most narrators and amazingly detailed as to what is going on everywhere at every time, tells of the things she has grown to enjoy, and the people in her life.  She hasn’t had many successful relationships, but finds pleasure in cracking the crust on Creme Brulee, seeing mistakes in old movies, and skipping stones.

A chance find of a child’s old keepsakes in her apartment causes her to start a quest to find who they belonged to and eventually leads her to a man in a different part of town. She leaves the box for him to find and sees his reaction upon finding it.  This causes her to become a professional “do-gooder”,  on a mission to improve the lives of others.  What follows is her adventures as she befriends the depressed landlady of her building, the brittle boned man next door, sends her fathers garden gnome around the world – it’s all just too much fun to explain.  She doesn’t always succeed in making their lives better (particularly with the grocer whom she torments to no end due to his mistreatment of Lucienne, the boy who works for him), but she does change them in meaningful ways.

Eventually a love story develops between her and another unknown man who also hovers on the fringes of society.  He collects discarded photos from passport photo machines, collecting them all in albums.  All different people all with different expressions, except one whose face appears over and over in the albums.  Her desire to find him and understand his hobby takes her on a journey that involves strange signs, cryptic messages, and scavenger hunts around the city.

This is one of those films that could only come from Jeunet.  His flair for the visual is amazing.  Audrey Tautou (who would also star in Jeunet’s “A Very Long Engagement” a few years later) is simply lovable in the title role.  The film shows Paris not as it is, but how Jeunet wishes it would be.  Not dirty and noisy, but peaceful and beautiful, with bright splashes of color, friendly quirky, inhabitants and talking paintings.

It is an unbelievable story that incorporates into it many urban legends, beautiful cinematography, and love.  However, in the realm of the film, all of this is believable.  It never insults the viewers intelligence, it merely asks them to suspend disbelief for a few hours.  It takes you on a journey that can do nothing but delight.  I once had a friend say to me about this movie that if you can watch this movie without smiling, you simply aren’t human.  I couldn’t agree more.

So after days of revenge killing, buttons sewn into a child’s eyes, and rape and murder in my previous blogs, I took today to write about a whimsical film that I love more than most.  It is definitely in my top 100 movies of all time.  Where it is placed in the 100, I don’t know.  It is a great film, and an awesome one at the same time.  If you haven’t seen it please do.  And please comment below   I know a few of you are reading this, but I would really like to open the discussion at some point to what movies you think are awesome, and why.

Amélie, Awesome because it is beautiful, lovable  and it makes me happy.