Don’t sleep on these titles, though. They might someday appear in your Disney+ queue, because everyone in the Star Wars universe, no matter how obscure, has a story to tell.
Animal House (1978)
Unrelenting hedonism and misogyny are the electives of choice for members of a 1960s college fraternity. School administrators try heroically to discipline the Delta Tau Chi house, but to no avail. A juvenile prank leads to the untimely death of a horse, several women are tricked into disrobing, and a pledge commits adultery with the college president’s spouse. “Animal House” is an apt title for a movie in which there is no empathy or respect for rules, rights, and human dignity.
Dumb and Dumber (1994)
Two developmentally disabled men take a cross-country road trip. One of them has an unhealthy crush on a mysterious woman who has left a suitcase at the airport. Trigger Warnings: subject matter includes frozen mucus, bowel control issues, bad haircuts, a lethal amount of chili peppers, and a fatal attack on a rare owl species.
There’s Something About Mary (1998)
There’s something chilling about an unstable man who exposes himself to his prom date’s parents, becomes obsessed with the young woman, then appears near her Florida home several years later. Ben Stiller stars as a man who spins a web of lies to get closer to the unwitting object of his desire. A cautionary tale about those who fall through cracks of our flawed mental health system. Trigger Warning: viewers who care about hygiene may be troubled by the “hair gel” scene.
Talladega Nights (2006)
Rural stereotypes abound in this crass tale of stock car driver Ricky Bobby’s fall from grace. A European rival, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, tries to teach Ricky Bobby a lesson about tolerance and sportsmanship, but is instead ridiculed for leading an alternative lifestyle and for being French. An explicit scene in which a dinner prayer is parodied for cheap laughs may be offensive to some viewers.
The Hangover (2009)
Four white males exercise their privilege by booking a lavish bachelor party weekend in Las Vegas. Not satisfied to simply reflect on life and enjoy each other’s company, the friends quickly become inebriated and encounter a range of dubious adventures that include animal cruelty, Asian stereotypes, excessive use of a Taser, and an agitated and possibly violent Mike Tyson. Finally, the Vegas getaway is scheduled one day before the groom’s wedding, a plot device that perfectly captures male indifference to relationships and long-term commitments.
There’s a scene from The Empire Strikes Back that has always intrigued and fascinated me. If you are my age or younger, you may know this part of the movie by heart. Han Solo, Leia and the gang have just arrived at Cloud City, and Lando Calrissian is playing the good host by taking them to dinner. They arrive at the dining room and the door slides open to reveal Darth Vader at the end of a long table. Han fires his blaster a couple of times at Vader, who deftly blocks the shots.
Vader says, “We would be honored if you would join us.” Lando gives Han and Leia some lame excuse about the Empire arriving in town just before they did. “I’m sorry,” he says.
“I’m sorry, too,” Han replies. Han, Leia, Chewbacca and Lando enter the dining room, Vader sits at the table, the bounty hunter Boba Fett walks in behind him, and the door closes.
I have always wondered what happened right after that door closed. Most likely, the Storm Troopers rounded Han, Leia and Chewie up and took them immediately to the detention center. But Vader’s remark haunts me: “We would be honored if you would join us.” Maybe the Dark Lord planned some chivalrous gesture by treating Han and his friends to a nice dinner before hauling him off to be frozen in carbonite. I know that would be out of character for Vader, but that is what I want to believe happened. I mean, they had food and drinks laid out on the table as if they were getting ready to entertain. You can’t let that much food go to waste.
And if they did, in fact, sit down for a last supper, as it were, this is how I imagine the dialogue:
VADER: This is a day that will be long remembered.
SOLO: (Not looking up.) Could someone please pass the rolls? (Boba Fett passes a basket of rolls and Han takes one.)
VADER: The Emperor will be most pleased.
LEIA: You really think this is the end, don’t you? You may have caught us, but there are thousands out there just like us. Hundreds of thousands. I may not live to see it, but your empire will crumble someday soon, Lord Vader.
SOLO: (Placing a hand on LEIA’s arm.) Honey, now is not the time.
VADER: (Leaning back in his chair.) No, please… Let her speak. I find her lack of tact amusing.
SOLO: Chewie, stop it!
FETT: (Checking his watch.) I say we end this charade and freeze him.
VADER: The Empire will compensate you for your time. Has everyone tried the green bean casserole? I obviously can’t eat it, but I sense that it is very tasty.
LANDO: (Taking the dish.) Thanks. Want some, Han?
SOLO: Sure, why don’t you hand that over? Just like you handed your friends over to the Empire.
LANDO: (Whispering.) I had no idea you were coming. I hadn’t seen you since, what, since the Kessel Run? Then you just show up. (Taking a sip from his wine glass.) Look, I did the best I could.
SOLO: Oh, I get it. You’re a real hero.
LEIA: (Leaning toward LANDO.) When Luke hears about this, he’s going to blast your little floating city out of the sky.
VADER: How is Luke anyway? Has anyone seen him lately? What’s he up to?
(Everyone stares silently at their food.)
VADER: I only ask because, well, I do have a certain fondness for the boy. He clearly has talent. The emperor and I are quite certain that he can be turned.
LEIA: (Almost spitting.) He’ll die before he joins you.
VADER: (Lifting a gloved finger.) We shall see about that, princess. We shall see.
SOLO: You might have fooled us, but Luke’s too smart to fall into one of your traps.
LEIA: (Picking at her lime fluff jello salad.) Can I have another roll? Please?
FETT: Solo ate the last one.
VADER: (Lifts his hand, and a roll rises from the basket and lands on LEIA’s plate.) No…there is another.
(LEIA nods to the Dark Lord and takes a bite from her roll.)
– END –
So R.P. starts acting silly all the time.
He is so good at acting silly that the people
in charge of him can’t stand
being around him anymore.
They send R.P. to a really big hospital
where he can get his sillies out.
R.P. is delighted.
At last, he doesn’t have to work anymore.
R.P. makes lots of friends among the men
at the hospital, and they play lots of games.
His best friend is a really tall Native American
Chief doesn’t talk, which may be why R.P.
likes him so much.
This pleasant-looking lady is Nurse Ratched.
She is in charge of R.P. and his friends
at the hospital.
Nurse Ratched makes R.P. and his friends
talk about their feelings.
Sometimes she makes them feel guilty
for being in the hospital.
Sometimes pleasant-looking people
aren’t really so pleasant, after all.
R.P. and his friends have some good times.
One day, they play basketball.
Another day, they go on a fishing trip.
Another day, they invite some girls to the hospital.
Nurse Ratched doesn’t like this.
She thinks the men are being lazy, like R.P.
Nurse Ratched gets very upset with R.P.
His silly adventures make her job hard.
She has a doctor do an operation on him
that will get the sillies out.
In fact, it does more than that.
When R.P. returns to his friends at the hospital,
he is not very much fun anymore.
Nurse Ratched is pleased.
This is what happens, she thinks,
when boys won’t stop being so silly.
Photos courtesy of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Last night, our three-year-old son went to the movie theater for the first time. He saw Turbo, the new DreamWorks picture about a snail who has an insatiable need for speed. I’m proud to report that our son sat through the entire two-hour movie, and was so inspired by Turbo’s story that he raced his cousin to the bathroom right after the closing credits.
I am trying to remember the first movie I ever saw in a theater (which would have been my first movie anywhere, those being the days before home video). I think it was either Bambi, which I watched with my parents at a theater in Columbus, Ga., or Escape From Witch Mountain, which my mom took me to see in our hometown of LaGrange. I remember leaving Witch Mountain a little early, just as a helicopter with the bad guys landed upside down on the mountain. Maybe it was more than I could handle. Regardless of which movie was the first, I achieved this milestone in 1975, when I was four years old. It was the beginning of regular trips to the theater to watch a whole slew of Disney movies, from Pinocchio to Snow White to the less-memorable Shaggy D.A. and The Cat From Outer Space.
Do you remember your first trip to the movies as a kid? What movie was it? What year was it?
Image courtesy of DreamWorks.
arnold schwarzenegger, batman, E.T., hollywood, jack nicholson, man of steel, movies, one flew over the cuckoo's nest, satire, schindler's list, shirley maclain, spielberg, Stephen Roth, summer, superman, tarantino, terms of endearment
Today, my wife and I are planning to go see the new Superman movie, Man of Steel. I feel a little sheepish about shelling out $10 a ticket for Hollywood’s latest revival of a tired superhero franchise, but I’ve always had a soft place in my heart for Superman movies. I’ve been hooked since my mom took me to watch the first one shortly before Christmas in 1978. I even kind of enjoyed Superman III with Richard Pryor (I was 12 years old at the time), as well as the maligned 2006 sequel, Superman Returns. I’m looking forward to the latest interpretation, even though I know from reviews that young Clark Kent will be portrayed as a brooding, conflicted loner, and that the battles with the General Zod will involve collateral damage on a ridiculous scale, and that I’ll probably be annoyed by the self-important seriousness of it all, just as I was with the latest Batman series. Okay, maybe I’m not so excited to see this movie.
As you are well aware, Hollywood almost never produces original movies with unproven story lines and fresh characters anymore, especially not during the blockbuster summer season when the financial stakes are highest. However, this summer does feature some intriguing sequels to beloved films from the days when Hollywood actually cared about artistic side of movie-making. Here’s my guide to the ones that are getting the most buzz from the entertainment press:
One Flew Back to the Cuckoo’s Nest (R) After years of wandering the Columbia River valley, Chief realizes he misses the “gang of nuts” at the hospital, and decides to re-commit himself. It is the early 1980s, during government budget cuts and de-institutionalization, and Chief and Nurse Ratched become unlikely allies as they testify before Congress to save their mental hospital from closure. Jack Nicholson makes a brief appearance as the ghost of R. P. McMurphy during the nuts’ annual fishing trip off the Oregon coast. My rating: 2 1/2 jolts of electroshock therapy.
Schindler’s Sh*t List (NC-17) Shortly after the end of World War II, Oskar Schindler and a ragtag team of Holocaust survivors exact revenge by hunting down Nazis hiding in South America, then subjecting them to sadistically inventive deaths. Quentin Tarantino’s long-awaited sequel to the 1994 Steven Spielberg classic signals a career comeback for Arnold Schwarzenegger, who puts his Austrian accent to good use as the cocksure, swaggering Schindler. My rating: 43 1/2 original ways of using the F-word.
Batman Begins Again (PG-13) In what promises to be the darkest, most ominous Batman movie ever made, Bruce Wayne loses most of his fortune in an elaborate Ponzi scheme, and joins the Riddler’s crime syndicate as a way to fund his exotic drug habits. It’s up to the Boy Wonder, heroically played by Seth Rogan, to get Batman back on track and teach him how to trust humanity again. My rating: 3 1/2 fight scenes in which Batman should have broken his spine, but emerges unscathed.
E.T. in 3-D: The Extra, Extra Terrestrial (PG) His planet taken over by the evil Admiral Zurd, E.T. returns to Earth to enlist the help of his old friend, Elliot, who is now a NASA scientist. Elliot convinces the government to green-light a massive rocket program in an effort to fight off Zurd’s forces, who now threaten Earth. Several space battles ensue, all to the soundtrack of Neil Diamond’s new single, “Reboot Your Heartlight.” My rating: 3 1/2 spectacularly exploding planets.
Terms of Endearment II: Aurora Returns (R) Shirley MacLain reprises her greatest role as Aurora moves back to Houston to care for aging astronaut and ex-boyfriend Garrett Breedlove (Jack Nicholson), who is dying from a rare venereal disease. Jeff Daniels steals the show as Aurora’s former son-in-law, now a best-selling author who helps Garrett get into a world-class hospice/spa resort. My rating: 2 1/2 boxes of soggy Kleenex.
1. Make a movie about an important historical figure.
2. Have either Meryl Streep or Daniel Day-Lewis portray that important historical figure.
3. Extra points if the important historical figure is British (and the actor is not).
4. If you’re not playing an important figure, play a character who is struggling with a severe disability or mental illness.
5. Or someone who is persecuted by the evils of corporate America.
6. But make sure your character isn’t just freaking weird (See: Foster, Jodie; Nell, 1995).
7. If you’re a director, make a movie that tackles a fashionable political cause.
8. And by “fashionable,” we mean “liberal.”
9. For Best Supporting Actor, make sure you haven’t been relevant for at least 20 years, then suddenly re-appear in a quirky, uplifting indie film.
10. Try getting nominated for “Best Animated Short” or “Best Short Documentary.” Even if you don’t win, no one will know because those awards aren’t televised.
11. Don’t get your hopes up if Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway announce you as a winner.
12. Make a documentary about a political cause. Make sure the cause is fashionable.
13. If you are a movie score composer, be John Williams.
14. And if you are Martin Scorsese, you should have won about 10 of these things by now.