Thursday, August 26, 2010

A woman once asked me a question…okay, it was Amber…anyway, asked why every kids movie needs to have rap songs in the soundtrack.

Now, nothing against rap (being white, I’m legally obligated to not understand it, mind you, but I still appreciate its merits), but these days it seems that every non-disney kids movie needs to be crammed full of mainstream pop songs of all kinds, including rap and R&B, even if all the characters are as white as the driven snow.

So I’d like to take a moment and point the blame where it belongs: Robin Williams.

Okay, only sorta. You see, where this really began are the family movies that wanted to be family friendly, while simultaneously ‘hip and with it’. As most of you know, this combination usually goes as well as peanut butter and negligent homicide.

Regardless, if you count it as a kids movie, then where it seemed to start was in 1993 with Mrs Doubtfire. Technically, it’s a normal comedy, but it was squarely aimed at kids, and they’re certainly the ones that kept filling the theatres to see it to listen to House of Pain’s hit “Jump around”. Who can forget family friendly lyrics such as ‘if your girl steps up, I’m smacking the hoe’?

All in all, it was family friendly comedies that weren’t specifically kids movies where the trend started, but if you want to know the first definite kids movie that included rap songs in the soundtrack, from what I can tell it was The Rugrats movie in 1998, which had several rap/R&B songs in the soundtrack. Yes, believe it or not, Dreamworks was not responsible. It was Nickelodeon.

Anyway, back to searching for the best year for movies in my lifetime. One thing’s for certain, it’s not going to be in the 90’s. Man, was that a lousy decade for movies.


Plenty of shameful movies here, that weren’t so much ‘terrible’ as make us wonder what we were thinking: Home Alone, Pretty Woman, Dances With Wolves, and Ghost. You see? Not so much ‘I regret seeing it’ as ‘I regret having it in my DVD collection’.

There were a few good movies, but nothing earth shattering, besides Misery and Goodfellas: there was Kindergarten Cop, Back to the Future 3, Total Recall, Die Hard 2, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (what? It was a solid movie, damn it!).


Can you believe that Hook made 300 million dollars? For that crapfest?! I think that movie was the record for most acting careers simultaneously impaling themselves into the ground at once.

These three years were ‘okay’ for movies. They didn’t include too made winners, but quite a few good ones, and say what you want, at least they were original. The best of them are probably Unforgiven, Groundhog’s Day, and Nightmare Before Christmas. Other hits include:

Terminator 2
Addams Family (started/revived virtually every career in the movie)
Beauty & the Beast
Silence of the Lambs (either the best or worst date movie ever)
Hot Shots
Lethal Weapon 3
A Few Good Men
Scent of a Woman (along with the above, it made 1992 a great year for angry speeches)
Jurassic Park
Schindler’s List
Sleepless in Seattle
The Fugitive


This is where Hollywood began to really get lazy. For two solid years, it seemed that every movie included the same small handful of actors, playing exactly the same roles, in what as well may have been the exact same movie, multiple times. Again, there were a few gems, like Speed and ‘Interview with the Vampire’ (arguably Tom Cruise’s best performance ever), but the movies just seem inferior to that of the 80’s, overall. A few notable mentions:

Forrest Gump
Lion King (The dreaded beginning of fart jokes in Disney movies)
True Lies
The Mask
Dumb & Dumber
Four Weddings and a Funeral (AKA Five of the Same Thing)
Clear and Present Danger
Se7en (winner of the coveted ‘most pretentious title spelling’ award)
The Usual Suspects


Ah, the rise of the big budget blockbuster. There were a few here and there earlier on, but this is where it really started, with Independence Day. Suddenly every summer needed a star studded movie either by Michael Bay or James Cameron, with a 200 million dollar budget, a ridiculous script, and no shame.

Oh well, it was better than the mediocrity that came out in the few years before. In 1996 the big movies were Independence Day, Mission Impossible, and the Rock. In 1997 the big movies were Titanic and Men in Black. Finally, in 1998 it was Armageddon and Saving Private Ryan.

Like the ‘bully movies’ of the 80’s, these mega hits didn’t leave much room for anything else. The few notable exceptions were Twister, Fargo, LA Confidential, and the Truman Show (the sound you hear is Jim Carrey’s career peaking).


If you sense the rumbling of something dreaded approaching, it’s not just you.

This was a big year for movies…perhaps too big. All at once were a bunch of movies that weren’t exactly Oscar worthy, but regardless, drew unprecedented crowds to the theatres, and not just the teen girls that saw Titanic 20 times, no, this was everyone.

The came in hordes to see movies like:

Star Wars Episode 1
6th Sense
Toy Story 2
The Mummy
Austin Powers 2

Perhaps it was all the big blockbusters of the previous few years, but people were now coming to the movies in droves. Imagine you’re Hollywood, standing upon the precipice of this amazing new market trend. What do you do?

Do you build a strong audience through innovation and talented creators, like in the 70’s?

Or do you just churn out sequel/remake after half-assed sequel/remake, for a decade straight?


Thursday, August 12, 2010

A man once asked me if “George W. Bush wants to go to Mars, why doesn’t he first come down to Earth?”

He asked me this, unprovoked, in line at McDonalds, six months into Obama’s presidency.

A far more sane and relevant question once asked of me was “What year, since your birth, has been the best year for movies?”

Considering it was asked in a kitchen of a good friend’s house, I’ve decided to answer this one, instead of just slowly backing towards the emergency exit.

I’m not counting movies that came out before I was two. At that age anything with flashing lights and colors would impress me…come to think of it, that would pretty much remain true until my early 20’s. Regardless, we have to start somewhere, and that place is the 80’s, starting with 1981:

1981 and 1983

Why have I included 1983 in there as well? Because they’re close together, and share something important in common: they were years with a ‘bully movie’, or in other words, a movie where one movie completely dominated the market, causing Hollywood to push off their better movies until the following year.

In 1981, that movie was Raiders of the Lost Ark, and in 1983 it was Return of the Jedi. Both fine movies, Ewoks aside, but a single great movie isn’t enough to carry you for a whole year, so we have to leave these years behind, and go on to…


Now this was a fine year for movies, although not all movie snobs may agree. Oh sure, it didn’t have the 4 star critics choice movies, but looking back, it had a ton of very good ones (especially if you’re a geek):

Dark Crystal
Airplane 2 (you might not remember, but the Airplane movies made a ton of money)
Blade Runner
The Thing
Star Trek 2: Wrath of Khan
First Blood (the first Rambo movie, and the only one I’m willing to watch)
Road Warrior
Conan the Barbarian

What? Okay, these aren’t exactly ‘high cinema’, but dammit, they’re great all round entertaining movies! It’s so rare to have a year with so many good ones.


It was a bright and cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen…

Sorry, got distracted there. 1984 was an alright year for movies. There weren’t too many great ones compared to mediocre/bad ones, but they had Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Terminator, and This is Spinal Tap. Not too shabby, if you ask me.


Ah, what a great year for 80’s movies. In fact, it’s probably the definitive year for 80’s movies. Granted, these are all 80’s movies, but this was the year with movies we’d come to define the 80’s with:

Back to the Future
Breakfast Club (I am still ready, willing, and able to rock Molly Ringwald’s world)
Goonies (ditto for Kerri Green)
Teen Wolf
Weird Science
Rocky 4 (ditto for…just kidding ^_^)

1986 and 1988

Yes, another grouping. Only this time, these were years that had a few very nice gems, mixed in with a good deal of mediocrity. It was like eating a large bowl of Frankenberry cereal, only with most of the marshmallows picked out (sorry Stephen).

Little Shop of Horrors
Stand By Me
Labyrinth (ditto for Jennifer Connelly, but that pretty much goes without saying)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Who Framed Roger Rabbit (always a lot of fun)
Die Hard
Aliens (stop watching the series here)
Naked Gun
Beetlejuice (one of the most original movies ever made, period)


This was the year for ‘guy’ movies. Action, comedy, and horror ruled the day, and rightly so. ^_^

Okay, there’s more to life than just machinegun fire, geeky jokes, and topless women…but could you imagine a world where there wasn’t? What a place it would be.

Lethal Weapon
Full Metal Jacket (stop watching when they arrive in Vietnam)
Beverly Hills Cop 2
Princess Bride (not just a chick movie, regardless of what anyone says)
Running Man
Nightmare on Elm Street 3 (this and 4 were the best of the series)


I almost grouped this in with 86 and 88, as it was a mediocre year for movies littered with a few gems, but it’s interesting to note that this year featured two movies that redefined their genres, and opened up the market for a whole new slew of movies: Batman and Little Mermaid.

Kids movies and Superhero movies were suddenly hot, and that popularity is still continuing on to this day (until it ends with Thor, later this year).

Other good movies include Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, and Honey I Shrunk the Kids (a fun movie, despite the crappy sequel).

Well that’s it for the 80’s, which all things considered, was an excellent decade for movies. What comes next?


Pure 90’s flavored ‘PAIN’.