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April 05, 2003

Movie List -- I Liked, They Didn't

Friedrich --

One movie critic I know dislikes lists -- best-of or otherwise. Why? I'm not really sure. I suspect, though, that it's because of a feeling that lists vulgarize the art-appreciation game. A fair point. Nonetheless, I like arts lists. They can be a good way to get to know someone quickly, a good way to learn a bit, a good source for reading and listening and viewing suggestions, and good conversation stimulants.

Still, I confess that I can get a little tired of the usual -- namely, the "best-of" list. "Best-of meaning what exactly?" I'll say peevishly. "Your personal favorites? What you think is great?" (See here for Tim Hulsey making the distinction between "great" and "desert island" lists -- you'll have to scroll down a ways -- and here for me on my quarrels with year-end best-of lists.) But maybe I'm just jaded, and want something a little more original from a list.

Remember the old Film Comment "Guilty Pleasures" feature? Where filmmakers would list movies they knew were no good but loved anyway? Something like that. Too bad "guilty pleasures" won't do any longer -- everyone's so proud of their trash pleasures these days that no guilt seems involved. What I'm looking to generate and elicit is some shame, queasiness, embarrassment -- something a little cringe-making.

Here's the best I can do for now: a list of movies that I enjoyed so much that I actively pressed friends and acquaintances to see them -- and that almost no one agreed with me about. In many cases, I wound up enduring some ridicule. Sigh. Hurts me still.

In any case, consider this a work in progress. For all I know I've got many more movies I love buried under layers of shame and embarrassment, and yet to be unearthed.

  • Romance. To me, this Catherine Breillat eros-and-despair movie was one of the most exciting things I'd seen in years. Finally, a truthful movie about eroticism from a female point of view! It didn't seem to be what anyone else had been waiting for.
  • The Gingerbread Man. Robert Altman directing Kenneth Branagh in an adaptation of a John Grisham story (script by Altman under a pseudonym, I'm told). Despite my aversion to Grisham, I found the movie a sophisticated, moody and convincing thriller, and as visually beautiful as a Diebenkorn painting. It tanked instantly. I still can't understand why. As far as I can tell, most people say they found the narrative leap into the third act impossible to swallow. But not enough people saw the movie in the first place for me to reach any trustworthy conclusion.
  • Cookie's Fortune. More late Altman, and to my mind a touching, sweetly implausible southern fable. I found watching it like sitting on the back porch on a hot day with some bourbon and branchwater and just letting the southern yarns spin out at their own speed. I do know a few people who loved the movie. But many more have told me they found it so pokey it put them to sleep.
  • Never Talk to Strangers. Rebecca De Mornay and Antonio Banderas in an erotic (ie., does she trust the sexy hunk or not?) thriller. What an odd feeling -- to be engrossed in a movie ,and thrilled and aroused by it, while everyone around you is laughing at it. What was wrong with them?
  • And God Created Woman Rebecca de Mornay again. What can I say? De Mornay fascinates me -- the hard beauty, the acting conviction, the trampiness and intensity ... There's historically a close connection between prostitution and acting, and in some performers the war between the urge to use sexuality and the desire to do something spiritual can take place very close to the surface. De Mornay shows the effects of that war more clearly than any other actress I know of these days, and I'm happy as a baby watching it play out. This Roger Vadim re-make of his long-ago Bardot vehicle got laughed off the screens. But not only did I love De Mornay in it, I loved Vadim's work. He had a Euro-sophisticate's appreciation of Woman that was very unusual (rather like a form of connoisseurship), and I took the movie as a showcase -- a Euro-rogue's weary, amused and worldly portrait of the new, scarily aggressive, young American woman.
  • Black Robe. Intense non-genre period horror about a Jesuit missionary and his encounters with Canadian Indians. Terrifying, and, so far as I'm concerned, one of the best movies ever made about white/native relations. Also one of the least sentimental movies imaginable about Indians. No one else seemed to be in the mood for such a thing.
  • Stardom. A "Zelig"-like pseudodocumentary about a girl from the sticks who becomes a famous model. A film that obviously doesn't work -- the timing's plainly off. But after five minutes I adjusted and found myself enjoying something brilliant, perceptive, and elegant. How many movies offer half as much? Who cares that it doesn't work? Well, just about everyone, as it turned out.
  • Three movies by Krzysztof Zanussi. I have a theory that everyone has a few favorite downbeat works of art -- some song or movie or painting that suits one's dark moods. (Hey, that could be the basis for another good list.) Among my downbeat favorites are some movies by this Polish director: "Contract," "The Constant Factor" and "Camouflage." Zanussi's a brilliant and well-respected director. He trained as a scientist and, for a few years, made movies as dry, plain, and well-composed as geometry proofs. I raved about these, I pushed video copies on friends -- and I don't think I managed to get anyone to see in them anything like what I saw in them. I'm not totally sure I even got anyone to watch them, aside from The Wife, who had to, and who (valiant thing!) I still subject to the occasional enthusiastic outburst about the brilliance of Zanussi.
  • Lady in White. I may love this lyrical ghost fable partly because it's set not far from where I grew up -- as far as I know, it's one of only two movies that have been set in my old stomping grounds. But even making allowances for that, I love it. It's got a sense of personal conviction, and an unusually lyrical, childlike, ghost-story charm. A delicate horror movie -- who'd have thought? No one, apparently -- and no one found such an idea appealing either.
  • Lady Beware. An admittedly not-very-suspenseful Hitchcock-thriller wannabe that I was more than happy to be watching. Another one of those it-isn't-working-but-so-what movies. I found it an interesting attempt to put a feminist spin on Hitchcock themes, and I was more than happy to be watching Diane Lane in the lead role. Thrilled, actually. She's young, glossy, and a-quiver with talent and beauty. I don't think I've gotten one person to give this film a try.
  • The Color of Pomegranates. For my money, a biopic unlike any other, and one of the most amazing movies ever made. (It's like a cross between a Warhol movie and mid-Asian folk art.) The director, Sergei Paradjanov, making a movie about an Armenian poet, seems to have invented movies anew, with almost no reference to the rest of movie history. Paradjanov was one of a kind -- gay, entranced by beauty and folklore, determined to go his own way. Jailed by the Soviets during his peak years, he didn't get as many chances to make movies as I wish he had, and his other films are, IMHO, worth chasing down only if you find this one fascinating. But this one! Good lord, it's fine. But various friends have been making fun of me for years about my love for this film. In my own defence I can only say that I once showed the film (on the, alas, not-very-good Kino DVD) to a well-known film critic who'd never seen it, and she thought it was great too. Vindication.
  • Design for Living. The general movie-buff rap on this Ben Hecht/Ernst Lubitsch adaptation of Noel Coward is that it ruined a wonderful play. Well, I like the play fine too. Maybe part of the reason I love the movie is that it was the first Lubitsch movie I ever saw -- as Lubitsch buffs know, there's nothing quite like that first Lubitsch film. But even when re-watching it in sober middle-age, I'm still entranced. The timing, the wit, the glamor and melancholy -- what is it that other people don't see in the film? OK, Gary Cooper's all wrong -- so what? He's trying. And Miriam Hopkins and Fredric March are beyond perfection. The film for me is like the best dessert I ever ate. For everyone else it's something to be sent back to the kitchen.
  • Young Guns 2. Yes, the sequel to the trash Brat-pack hit. As far as I'm concerned, a classic small commercial western -- smart, fast, funny, and with a wry appreciation for how legend can start to dictate fact. Even when I point out to disbelieving acquiantances that the director, Geoff Murphy, is an interesting, whipsmart New Zealander with a feeling for native populations and frontier myth, I get uncomprehending and pitying looks. I don't think any of my enthusiasms has gotten me laughed at as much.
  • Beloved. For me, this Jonathan Demme adaptation of a Toni Morrison novel I hated fell into the interesting-failure category -- interesting-enough a failure for me to urge friends to give it a try. Though no one had any idea what I was talking about, I'll still assert that Demme was up to something fascinating, using Twain, folklore, Haitian art and much else to create something magical. I enjoyed the effort, the beauty, and the thick and sensual texture, and didn't have much trouble overlooking what was agonizingly awful about the movie.
  • Scarface. The Brian De Palma/Al Pacino version. A big hit, admittedly, but not with the kind of people I (for better or, often, worse) tend to hang out with. While the messenger-and-handyman class loved the film and put up posters of Pacino as Scarface on their walls, the fancier people laughed at it. I disgraced myself thoroughly over this film. At first I enjoyed it and enthused about it to friends. When I realized they were feeling acutely embarrassed for my sake, I clammed up and pretended -- even to myself -- to have seen the error of my ways. Recently, I finally came out of the closet and admitted that, dammit, I had a good time. I'm still blushing about having been such a weasel.
  • Mission to Mars. More Brian De Palma. I know perfectly well that there's some stuff in this sci-fi movie that falls flat. But I thought De Palma did a great job of conveying a sense of intellectual wonder, and I thought the film had more to offer visually than ten typical sci-fi movies. Watching it, I felt like I felt decades ago, when I was a kid looking at a poster of the solar system: wow, the poetry of outer space!... I do know of a couple of people who reacted to the movie the same way, but it was hard to locate them amidst the hooting and ridicule.
  • What Lies Beneath. Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeiffer in a thriller for grownups that's so hushed and precise it's like a ride in a high-end Mercedes. My friends hated it; I sat back and enjoyed the expensive purr.
  • Panic Room. A terrorized-and-trapped-woman movie with Jodie Foster, directed by David Fincher -- "Wait Until Dark" goosed up on cyber-steroids, basically. Fincher, who also made "Se7en" "Fight Club," and "The Game," is considered by many to be the future of movies. The great young hope, he's taking the big studio movie where it's bound to go: conceptual, computerized, mind-fucky, gruesome and nihilistic. So his fans deplored "Panic Room," which is a mere genre exercise. Me, I dislike the sprawl and pretentiousness of his celebrated movies and liked the way he leaned-and-meaned his act up for this little entertainment. The future of movies? I may go there, and I may not.
  • Somebody Like You. The romantic comedy starring Ashley Judd that went head to head with "Bridget Jones" and got its butt kicked. I found "Bridget" charmless and had a perfectly good time at this, which struck me as much more smoothly made. And god knows I'll take Ashley Judd over Renee Zellwegger any day. My romantic-comedy-buff wife, as well as many women friends, tell me I couldn't be more wrong. Why? No explanation forthcoming. As far as I can tell, romantic comedies are like desserts: women know exactly what pleases them, and exactly where something's gone wrong. And they're completely unable to explain why. They just know. And I was wrong.
  • Quick Change. I like small, eccentric comic capers, and this one -- with Bill Murray and Geena Davis as burned-out boomers who resort to robbery to make their way out of New York City -- amused me plenty. Wasn't it also the beginning of the end of Davis' and Murray's status as stars?
  • A Shock to the System. Another eccentric crime yarn, this one starring Michael Caine and Elizabeth McGovern, and one of the closer American approximations to an Ealing comedy: smaller than you expect, slyly and pleasingly malicious. Or so I alone felt. With a snappy script taken by Andrew Klavan from a novel by the first-class British crime writer Simon Brett, and directed by the promising Jan Egleson, who soon after returned to television whence he came.
  • Turner and Hooch. That's right, the Tom Hanks dog movie, which I thought was loose and funny. Excellent dog, and Hanks was at his peak as a light comedian. Let me tell you, though: if you let people at a party know that you're a fan of "Turner and Hooch," you'll clear a large space for yourself pretty quickly. Years later, watching "Inside the Actors Studio," I saw Tom Hanks say that he considered his acting in this movie to be some of his best. I swear he did. Really.
  • Crash. Sexy weirdness from David Cronenberg, icy and disturbing, with a sophisticated amorality about sexual pleasure you don't often see in a movie from North America. Genuinely experimental, too -- an attempt to use sex acts as the building blocks for a movie's construction rather than narrative story elements. Such was my take, anyway. Friends tell me they simply found the film incompetent.

Hmm, looking at this list I notice a few tendencies I have. I'm drawn to Canadian movies, eroticism, Robert Altman and Brian De Palma movies, thrillers, and movies featuring actresses I'm interested in. I notice also that I'm willing to cut these kinds of movies a lot of slack. I wish this meant that I'm an interesting person, but I suspect that isn't the case.

No point in picking on me for these pleasures. I've already steeled myself against the likelihood of at least a few "You liked 'Mission to Mars'? What kind of idiot are you?" comments. But I'm very curious to hear from you about a few such movies -- ones you've loved that no one else did, or that, even better, you actually got ridiculed for loving. The only real challenge here is: have you got the guts to make -- and make public -- such a list? Are you man enough? Well, are you?

Wait. Why am I imitating Clint Eastwood?



posted by Michael at April 5, 2003


Been a while since I last watched it so I don't know if my judgement still stands, but I used to like the first Police Academy movie. The remainder of the series was shit, but the original was always rather fun.

From memory I liked Black Robe as well. Design For Living is one I'm quite keen to see (trivia: apparently it includes the first known audible use of the word "fuck" in a Hollywood film) and I have it on order with a friend of mine in the US to tape it off TCM when it plays on that channel in the next month or so.

Crash? A diabolical bore. And I must go for the 1932 Scarface over the 1983 one.

Posted by: James Russell on April 5, 2003 2:47 AM

A few thoughts:

I remember being in a a hotel somewhere, and turning on the TV just as "Shock to the System" was starting. Only I had no TV guide, and it was never identified during commercial breaks, so I watched this strange, wonderful little movie I'd never heard of without knowing what it was. It wasn't until the IMDB era that I finally figured it out. One of Micheal Caine's underrated gems.

People who are too snobby to admit they like "Scarface" are not the kind of people I want to hang out with...

Since when is Bill Murray not a star? He doesn't work as much these days, true, but I think that's more by choice than anything else. He remains one of the most beloved personalities in movies. I remember seeing "Wild Things" (another trash classic for your list, BTW...) and feeling the wave of anticipation go through the audience as he appeared onscreen in what was little more than a cameo. He's has that kind of unpredictable energy of the greatest screen comics...

Posted by: jimbo on April 5, 2003 6:30 AM

Black Robe — Yes, an underrated gem, directed by Bruce Beresford a year or two after Driving Miss Daisy. If you ever get the chance, see it on the big screen, as the cinematography is exquisite.

Lady Beware — Okay, it is admittedly crap, but it's Diane Lane, and a whole lot of Diane Lane, to boot. Didn't you love how the love interest just vanished from the plotline after he saved her butt from the slasher-movie-like suspense scene?

(A Lubitsch film I've not seen??? AAACCCKKKK!!!)

Young Guns 2 — Yup, I defend it too. And I get the strangest looks. It's tightly directed, and just plain neat. And Christian Slater continually asking people if they've heard of him, and when the haven't, complaining that he's killed 17 men, is a riot. Sort of reminds me of me telling people about my blog, actually...

Somebody Like You — although I stupidly remembered it as Down To You, but yes, I'll take Ashley over Renee any day of the week. However, I must defend Bridget Jones's Diary. First of all, it was co-scripted by Richard Curtis, for my money the best working screenwriter there is (Four Weddings & a Funeral and Notting Hill). Then you've got the most realistic fist-fight ever filmed (except the going-through-the-window bit). It was also, by far, the more sincere of the two movies, probably why your wife preferred it. (I can well understand preferring Ashley Judd cheerleading in her undies, though.)

What Lies Beneath — wow did I hate this movie.

Quick Change — goofy fun.

Turner & Hooch — another one I admit to liking and take heat for. Hanks did call it one of his better performances on ITAS, and I agree. He also related a scene that had been cut, that was his favorite, which sounded hilarious. You know how, in buddy cop films, there's usually a scene where they're on surveillance, and one naps while the other covers for him? Well, they shot a scene with Hooch sitting in the driver's seat, apparently alone, looking out the window. Hanks sits up, takes a sleep mask off, rubs his eyes and says "Hey, thanks for covering for me." Heh.

I've been able to stand Altman a total of three times, and you didn't list any of them. And while I like DePalma, give me Femme Fatale over these two any day of the week.

Posted by: Ian on April 5, 2003 8:24 AM

Quick Change: isn't that the one where, apropos of nothing, Bill Murray and Geena Davis watch a couple of young Latino men joust on bicycles for the honor of the fair maid? Odd film, and I have no idea why I saw it, as I don't go to the movies all that often....but that one scene stuck in my mind, both because it was so completely orthogonal to the plot, and because it seemed to be dear to the director's heart.

Posted by: Will Duquette on April 5, 2003 10:31 AM

All right, all right, all right. Let's start over again here. Let me spell out the rules of this here game.

I've been picked on enough already for liking these movies, durn it, and y'ain't here to pile on. You're here to dig deep into your own shame-ridden souls and volunteer -- do you hear me, volunteer? -- a couple of movies that you really enjoyed, and that you wound up taking heat for, even getting made fun of for.

Otherwise you're going to wind up making me feel like I haven't come up with a fun movie-list thing. And you wouldn't want me to feel bad, now, would you? I worked hard on this concept, this list, and this game. And the fun of it's supposed to be that it'll take you a minute or two of wrestling with your memories and feelings to come up with a movie or two for a list like this.

Well, OK, come to think of it, maybe piling on me is fair enough and only right. But only if you volunteer a couple of titles of your own, and thereby give the rest of us a chance to pile on you too.

Sheesh, a man goes to all the trouble of inventing a new movie-list game and all he gets is trouble and pain, trouble and pain...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 10:56 AM

I'll play by the rules, even if the rest of you sissies won't. My Tom Hanks embarrassment is not Turner and Hooch, but Dragnet. Every time Hanks and Aykroyd put on their goat leggings and do their silly dance, or Aykroyd, in his best Jack Webb manner, refers to "the Virgin Connie Swale," I laugh and laugh. So sue me.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on April 5, 2003 11:47 AM

OK, so I'm not being very clear. I'll try again.

Concept: movies that you loved or semi-loved that you actually got made fun of for loving. Ie., not trash movies you had a good time telling people about (though that's a good list too -- James, want to start that game on your blog?). But movies you cared about a little, that you wound up actually getting ridiculed for, and that you over time probably learned to semi-shut up about.

Game: examine your memories, take a deep breath or two, admit to getting your feelings hurt a few times over your reactions to movies. And then volunteer the title of the movie that caused it all.

OK, sorry, back to you guys.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 11:50 AM

Wow, Aaron, good one! "Dragnet" -- now there's a movie it takes some real soul-searching to admit having enjoyed. That'll be hard to beat.

C'mon kids, if Aaron can do it, you can too. Shame and embarassment can be fun!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 11:53 AM

I'll dig a little deeper, just to set a good example for the rest of you. Top Gun. Sure, Kelly McGillis has a bull neck and Tom Cruise has chiclets where his teeth ought to be, and nobody in the movie can act his way out of a wet paper bag, or tries to, and yes, you can sit around and mock the homo-eroticism until the cows come home, but come on, it's like watching a 90 minute ad for the Air Force, except way more fun.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on April 5, 2003 11:59 AM

Maybe if we applaud real loud Aaron will come up with something even better, but it's hard to imagine how. "Top Gun." Who can beat that?

Re "Top Gun" -- which I, like any intelligent person, loathed (and which is why it's so great that Aaron, more intelligent than whom you simply aren't going to find, 'fessed up to enjoying it)-- I once had a conversation with an Air Force wife, an old friend. I asked her about her reaction to "Top Gun." And she said, sure, yeah, the movie's over-souped-up, but if you take that into account it's actually pretty true to life. That's really pretty much what those Top Gun guys are like. You've got to be a cocky SOB to fly those fighters, there's a lot of testosterone and strutting on display, and the family-and-wife sections were accurate too.

So I had to come up with a better reason than "false" and "unrealistic" to dislike the movie.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 12:07 PM


Posted by: on April 5, 2003 12:14 PM

Sorry? Didn't quite catch that one...

By the way, how come we only have guys pitching in so far? How about some input from the gals?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 12:21 PM

Maybe because your original post asked if we were "man" enough to fess up. I thought this was a guy thing you men did for bonding and stuff.

However, does it count when the people you went to the movie with get up and move because you are crying so hard you are embarrassing them? "Terms of Endearment." It also gave me one of my favorite refusals of all time--"I'd rather stick needsles in my eyes"

Oh, yes, And "Sound of Music" just because I like to belt it out along with the movie. I can clear the house on a good day.

Posted by: Deb on April 5, 2003 2:58 PM

"Sound of Music"!?? The best yet. Let's see if Aaron can rally. Musicals -- I hadn't even thought of musicals...

Hey, I'll watch "The Music Man" over and over myself, but I don't think I feel embarrassed enough about it -- or have (yet) been mocked enough about it -- for it to count.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 3:20 PM

Oh, and that tale about crying so much people move to get away from you ranks pretty high. Thanks.

Weepies -- another good list possibility. Male weepies, too. Westerns and sports movies sometimes make me get all snuffly, if -- I hasten to add -- in a very manly way. Got a little snuffly the other day watching John Wayne in "Hondo," as a matter of fact.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 3:23 PM

The Sound of Music? Please. That's not even in the hunt, especially for a woman. I love The Sound of Music, and it's not as remotely embarrassing as Top Gun. Have you ever heard my rendition of "Edelweiss"? Killer. Absolutely killer.

You want male weepies? I give you -- Brian's Song! Do I cry at the end? I'll never tell.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on April 5, 2003 3:35 PM

I think the last movie I both seriously defended and was seriously beat up for defending was "Dumbo" back when I was living in New York in the late 1970s. The "cinematography"--the composition and flow of the images--was and remains more perfectly suited to the story than in anything else I can remember. The other day I noticed that of the movies I've seen on the screen or via video over the past year or so, the best "structured" visually were The Wrong Trousers and Stuart Little II. I know I probably won't get much shit for liking The Wrong Trousers but I'm hoping somebody dares to work me over about Stuart Little II. Most "effects" movies are complete visual messes, but somehow SLII is pure classic.

I also thoroughly enjoyed "Dragnet." I even listen to the theme music from time to time in my car, with the classic Tom Hanks line, "Thank god it's Friday" in the sonic mix.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on April 5, 2003 3:44 PM

Deb, are you going to let Aaron upstage you without fighting back? Let's have something even more embarrassing.

Aaron, can I sing backup on "Edelweiss"? I've still got a few verses lodged somewhere in my brain. And I don't know if "Brian's Song" is really up with your other candidates. A little too ... obvious, don't you think? But who am I to talk, having just nominated "Hondo."

Friedrich, I don't think I've ever heard anyone make a case for "Stuart Little 2." Good one.

Oh, wait, I've got another contender: "The Fast and the Furious." Vin Diesel, MTV cutting, road racing, vroom, vroom. I genuinely enjoyed it, and enjoyed watching it a second time too. People stare at me funny when I say that, though. Oh, and Cher and Winona in "Mermaids," which I found a very touching actress-fest. Liked Cher and Winona in it,too, but saying that's a good way to lose all credibility as a serious movie buff. "Bride of Chucky" was a fun, irreverent pop blow-out, but maybe a bit too respectably underground and knowing for this list. I'm going through my list of faves from the '90s, and I'm disappointed in myself -- nearly all of them are pretty respectable. Now that's something I really should be ashamed of.

I'm also thinking about male weepies ... "Thunder Road." "Breaking Away." I hear "The Rookie" is a good one, though I haven't seen it. Routine Westerns often do it for me, but I'm having a hard time coming up with titles ...

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 4:21 PM

Brian's Song obvious? Yes. But I thought we were shooting for embarrassing here. It's interesting how many sports movies are weepies -- Pride of the Yankees, Rudy, Bang the Drum Slowly -- as if men refuse to cry unless it's over something righteously male.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on April 5, 2003 4:54 PM

Quite right, and I defer: "Brian's Song" is primo embarrassing.

Actually, crying at any film is embarrassing for a guy to admit to, isn't it? Sorry: we never cry, though we snuffle a bit. Come to think of it, I've snuffled a bit once or twice watching "Animal ER" (or was it "Emergency Vet"?) on Animal Planet. Is that embarrassing? Somehow I've lost track. Maybe I've entered some beyond-embarrassment state. Or maybe I just need some afternoon coffee.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 5:04 PM

OK---I got made fun of, by family members and others, for two films which I will admit to:

First "About Last Night..." with Demi Moore and (yes, start laughing) Rob Lowe. But I was young and having boyfriend troubles and I totally related to the angst. Rob was cute. So was Demi. It was filmed in Chicago where I was living. I haven't mentioned my enjoyment of this for years.

Second---yes, the biggest dud of all time---"Ishtar." I will still watch this if it's on TV. I think both Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty are funny in it. Charles Grodin is always funny. Sue Me.

Posted by: annette on April 5, 2003 5:10 PM

Ok: I was just down at the Wal-Mart to pick up a fuse, and as I passed the DVD rack I (mindful of the Blowhards challange) perused the titles to see if there were any that might qualify. And one jumped out so hard I simply HAD to buy it, and wonder why I hadn't before: Point Break. I mean, Keanu and a psuedo-zen surfing bank robbing Swayze? It simply does not get any better...

Posted by: jimbo on April 5, 2003 5:11 PM

Charles Grodin was always funny. Then he got his own talk show, and that was the end of that. But that reminds me of another movie I would seriously defend if you got me drunk enough: Clifford, in which Grodin plays straight man to Martin Short's 10-year-old evil genius. It sank like the Lusitania, but Short really was brilliant. Rent it sometime and tell me I'm wrong.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on April 5, 2003 6:03 PM

'Fessing up to liking "...About Last Night" deserves its own special Oscar, thanks Annette. (I remember fondly the scene when Rob, carrying a sax in a case, gets on a mournful bus to leave town...) Post-teen anguish, treated oh-so-solemnly -- bliss. Brave of you to come out with that one. Plus I semi-enjoyed "Ishtar" too. But you hint that there are movies you've been laughed at for liking that you won't admit to. Won't you give us at least a hint?

Hey Jimbo, how did the rest of us overlook "Point Break"? I'm a big fan myself -- FBI agent goes undercover as a surferdude, what a premise. And you're right, Swayze as a Zen master, sheesh. Funny thing is I really enjoyed it and bought it whole. Do friends give you funny looks when you tell them you enjoyed the movie? Mine sure do.

"Charles Grodin" films -- its own special genre! I thought Grodin was most on top of his game in "The Lonely Guy." But Aaron sounds like the expert here. What's he been doing since the talk show, does anyone know?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 5, 2003 6:06 PM

Now that I've admitted to "...About Last Night" I guess there's nothing wrong with acknowledging totally enjoying "I Love Your To Death" specifically for William Hurt and Keanu Reeves as stoned, incompetent hit men. I think it was one of Hurt's best performances, actually. And "Black Widow" (she mates...and she kills!) with Debra Winger and Teresa Russell. Teresa Russell's acting is painfully bad in comparison with a talented actress like Winger, but there's still something compelling about the dopey thing...and a great love scene in a swimming pool.

Posted by: annette on April 5, 2003 8:05 PM

I hate these idiot game things, but this is one I can't resist because I beat you all.

"The Ten Commandments" (the 1950s one).


Posted by: acdouglas on April 5, 2003 9:28 PM

Interesting list.
The Gingerbread Man? Are you out you mind?
Never Talk to Strangers? I never laugh when Banderas is naked, although I may chuckle appreciatively.
"Somebody Like You" doesn't work for me because, on screen, the junior Judd has the personality of a mud fence.
I thought "What Lies Beneath" was a huge hit; it played for weeks and weeks.
We have similar taste in horror and I, too, liked "Turner and Hooch." I particularly enjoyed the play on a classic standoff: The cornered baddy tells Hanks, "You don't have what it take to kill me." With timing he hadn't shown since "Bosom Buddies," Hanks nods toward the dog and says, "No, but he does." Meta fiction and the sentimental dog story meet. How fun. Arf arf.

Ten? Off the top of my head
"Pootie Tang"
Some damn French murder mystery which I can never remember the name of - in the denouement the Columbo-like detective tells the prime suspect he knows himself knows the suspect murdered his wife because he, the Columbo-like detective had murdered his wife.
"Dunstan Checks In"
"Drop Dead Gorgeous"
"Lawn Dogs"
"Tremors" (It was a hit, but not taken seriously as a horror movie or a comedy.)
"Angel Eyes"
"Dude, Where's My Car?"

No woman will mock another woman for any movie with Keanu. Especially if he gets wet.

Posted by: j.c. on April 6, 2003 1:25 AM

For some reason I like those long epic movies that put most sane people to sleep. The first one I fell for was "Reds." Ahhh the memories. Warren Beatty, with side kick old what's-her-name...yes, Diane Keaton. She sang:

"I don't want to play in your yard, I don't like you anymore. You'll be sorry when you see me, sliding down my cellar door. You can't holler down my rain barrel. You can't climb my apple tree-ee. I don't want to play in your yard, if you won't be good to me." How many times did the tears stream down my teenage face in that movie? Geez. Hmm...I still sing that song after any failed relationship.

The next epic that crossed my path was with Natasha Kinski??? I can't even spell it or remember the movie's name. Some moody thing with a lot of landscape scenes and mist.

More recently...I totally fell for "Vanilla Sky." Did that go on and on or what? But I loved it. Women in the bathroom afterward were loudly berating it and practically puking in the toilets. Ahh, I held my love close to my heart.

Posted by: laurel on April 6, 2003 7:31 AM

OK, one more, and then I will have embarassed myself enough..."Hello, Dolly!" No one I recommend it to will ever watch it. But Babs is in superb voice, you get The Phantom himself, Michael Crawford, as a callow youth, Walter Matthauw being Walter Matthau, and a historic duet between Babs and Louis Armstrong--think Babs can't scat? Think again! I eat it up!

Posted by: annette on April 6, 2003 8:43 AM

Sorry, I had a date with my husband last night and blogging came in second on the list of fun things to do when the kids are gone....

AC-Yes, The Ten Commandmants--especially the narrator!

The Day of the Triffids-no one makes fun of me for liking that because they havent seen it so I guess that one doesent count

An Affair to Remember--I had to get up and leave the room so everyone else could hear what was going on...

Aaron, Edelweiss is easy. If you can do Climb Every Mountain with a straight face, then you take the prize. Sometimes, I get a dish towel and put it over my head just to get in the mood! Try it--it really helps. That's when folks start leaving, quietly so I wont notice.


Posted by: Deb on April 6, 2003 8:56 AM

Hey, there's a movie with Banderas nekkid? Off to the movie rental place right now!!!


Posted by: Deb on April 6, 2003 9:02 AM

Back to "Top Gun"---it's the movie that also introduced us to Meg Ryan. She is Anthony Edward's wife in it. She has one of the single best lines I ever heard. She bellows out in a bar--"Take me home to bed, or lose me forever!" (to her screen husband). I always to say that!

Posted by: annette on April 6, 2003 10:14 AM

Well, blogging in late, better than never. I remember catching a radio version of a "guilty pleasures" style show once. I was confused by the selections, as they seemed faux-guilty to me (people trying to make their toney taste seem like sinful splurges). Of course, the concept was fascinating, and mentally I was going through my mind, making my list...

Being the least movie educated person on the block, of course I had not heard of one in ten of Michael's movies. No matter, I still have a couple of movies that I watch in the dead of night after the men-folk in my house have retired.

My top pick of movies I really liked, that all my friends, family and acquaintances thought was trash? Labyrinth with David Bowie. Yes, I know he dresses like a tart. Whooee! Yes, I know the main actress is kind of sucky. Who cares? It's fantasy, it's got muppets, it's got pre-adolescent sex dreams, it's got cute songs. I am getting embarrassed right now describing it...

My family tolerate me. My friends roll their eyeballs and politely refrain from discussing it with me.

The other movie that comes under the category is Independance Day. Ok, I cried when the guy (sorry, I don't ever remember actor's names} gives his "let's go get them" July 4th speech. I cheer and laugh every time I hear "Elvis has left the building". I am embarrassed to admit that I liked this movie. My friends are embarrassed for me as well.


Posted by: Felicity on April 6, 2003 10:39 AM

Ouch. Forgot to close that pesky italics tag. Sorry. Fix it? Also forgot, my host broke my email and web site...

Posted by: Felicity on April 6, 2003 10:41 AM

Good one, I forgot Independance Day. I took alot of grief at the office over that one, cynical snobs that they are.


Posted by: Deb on April 6, 2003 10:58 AM

. Better now?

Posted by: Felicity on April 6, 2003 11:37 AM

I regret (?) to say that I recognize very few of Michael's movies, but here goes:

Shanghai Noon - Yes, the premise is lame, the dialog was wildly anachronistic, and the acting was at least suspect. On the other hand, it has some really funny lines, two entirely viewable babes, and Jackie Chan. You can add nearly all of Jackie Chan's movies to my list.

Roller Ball - Gratuitous violence, excellent music, and interesting visual treatment of a distopian future. Yes, the "subtext" was about as unsubtle as it is possible to be, and the acting ... possibly the worst performance I've ever seen from James Caan. Still, back when I was in college I worked for a video store and convinced the owner to buy this. I don't know that anyone ever rented it, but I was happy.

Since you mention Clint Eastwood, nearly everything he's ever done, including even "Every Which Way But Loose", and "Any Which Way You Can". Not precisely deathless cinema, but Clint Eastwood plays such generally likeable characters that I'll follow nearly any conceit through to the end.

Similarly, I like most Arnold Schwarzenegger movies, even Kindargarten Cop, mostly because of Arnold. I'll even admit to liking the Steven Segal movie, regardless of what he is calling it this month. Violence and a likeable character go a long way for me.

Oh, and I almost forgot, from the same genre, "The Quiet Man". Though I must admit that I've never felt guilty about that one.

Let's see, what other types of movie...

"The Truth About Cats and Dogs" and "Mystery Men", in large part because of Janeane Garofalo. And yes, I cried during the first of those - shock and horror. 8-)

I'd list Top Gun, but I've never felt the slightest bit of guilt. And your friend was right about the personality types. I grew up on Air Force bases and the personality type is dead on. Every pilot who ever flew fighters is the best pilot that ever lived - just ask him. Oh, and the bar scenes were pretty much exactly right, too.

Now maybe I've just shown myself to have a far more pedestrian set of movie tastes than is normal for this blog, but hey, isn't that what this thread was all about?

Posted by: Doug Sundseth on April 6, 2003 12:15 PM

Wow, this list is getting to be pretty ... pretty what? I was thinking "impressive," but that's obviously wrong. "Embarrassing/impressive," maybe? It's making my initial list look lame, which is great.

Which of these do y'all find the most embarrassing?

I'm still thinking it over, but my votes at the moment are hesitating between "The Truth about Cats and Dogs" (especially as volunteered by a man!); "Independence Day" (especially elicting tears); "Top Gun" (I think Doug should be embarrassed, even though he isn't). Liking "The Ten Commandments" (inc. narrator! even remembering the narrator!) is quite an admission these days. And "Vanilla Sky" ('nuff said) ...

But I don't know. Lots of competition here. "Dunstant Checks In" -- if only for its title and the orangutan/detective premise. Plus I enjoyed it too. I don't know why I didn't remember it. (Too embarrassed, I guess.) Putting a dishcloth over your head and singing "Climb Every Mountain" deserves some special award. As far as I'm concerned, anything with Keanu Reeves deserves a special honorary anti-Oscar. Liking "... About Last Night," "Stuart Little 2," "Clifford" -- I mean, how can you live with yourselves? Which makes them contenders, too.

I'm still hesitating, though. I think we should narrow it down to, say, the five absolutely-positively top picks: movies you should really be ashamed of liking, and that you're hesitant even to admit that you liked, and that it genuinely semi-pains you to admit in public that you liked.

If anyone's still dropping by here: which of the ones that have been mentioned so far do you think most deserve to be on that tip-top list? If enough people are still interested and pitch in, I'll total it up and put the results on display in a fresh posting.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 6, 2003 12:52 PM

You forgot "What Lies Beneath" which I think definitely deserves to be in the Top 5 Most Embarassing Picks. Others---The Ten Commandments,...About Last Night (OK,OK)...Turner and Hooch (sorry)...and, last but not least, Brian's Song.

Posted by: annette on April 6, 2003 1:45 PM

It just occurred to me that no one has confessed to having enjoyed A) one of the Burt Reynolds redneck movies, or 2) one of the Jim Varney "Ernest" movies. Can this be true? They might be real contenders.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 6, 2003 2:01 PM

"Dumb and Dumber" - it seems (primarily because of it's title) to be used by snobs as a shorthand for everything wrong with hollywood and american culture in general, but I hurt myself laughing just thinking about it...

Posted by: jimbo on April 6, 2003 2:27 PM

Burt Reynolds did redneck movies???? Rats, and I just got back from the video store looking for Banderas nekkid.


Posted by: Deb on April 6, 2003 7:48 PM

With special mention to Jimbo here, whom I'm currently in discussion with at other parts of your site, I'd like to put my two cents behind 'Dumb and Dumber'. Comic genius in my book, and yet I'd purposely avoided it until I was forced to watch it by a then girlfriend.

In July 1999 the Times included a retro supplement about the moon landing, which I put on my wall as tribute to a particular favourite moment in this film. And I bought the Times on purpose just to get it.

Sadly, all subsequent visitors to my house were aware of the news event in question, so it never really worked.

I know you're probably past taking new entries now, but what about 'They Live'?

"I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass. And I'm all out of bubblegum".


Posted by: Jon Pardoe on April 6, 2003 8:59 PM

Any movie that gets more than one vote should be disqualified. After all, isn't the point that everybody else loathes it? Sadly, this eliminates Top Gun, but c'est la guerre.

Posted by: Aaron Haspel on April 6, 2003 11:12 PM

There are a number of classics which got no mention, actually---including all the Rocky's and Rambo's and another of my own embarassments, as well as Travolta's---the "Look Who's Talking" series. I wish I'd remembered that last one, actually, that's way more embarassing than "Black Widow." And I know personally that Freidrich has repeatedly mentioned really loving "Weekend at Bernie's"---that's at least a little embarasssing.

Posted by: annette on April 7, 2003 12:20 AM

Of your list, I have seen four of them, and happen to like all of them. These are, in no particular order "Scarface", "Black Robe", "Crash", and "A Shock To The System". "Scarface", as a tale about crime, power, and paranoia, needs nothing else to be said. "Black Robe" had a wonderful atmosphere, and was one of the first subtitled films that I saw. "A Shock To The System" was a story that at first did not reveal where it was going, making the viewing so engaged. And finally "Crash" is one of those movies that I would love to suggest but am afraid that my friends would look at me funny if I did.

Posted by: Darin Robbins on April 7, 2003 3:29 AM


Let me don my "comic book guy" (from the Simpson's) hat for a moment and state: "the scene when Rob, carrying a sax in a case, gets on a mournful bus to leave town..." is from "St. Elmo's Fire" (which was not a Sesame Street production, but it was close since Joel "Hack" Schumacher directed it. It was the one that put him on the map) not "About Last Night..."

There, all better now.

My most mocked favorites are:

"Xanadu" with Olivia Neutron Bomb. I have been and always will be an Electric Light Orchestra/Jeff Lynne fan, and he did the score and the songs, so part of me had to like it. It is a terrible movie however. The premise is silly: Artistically blocked painter wants to really be a nightclub owner, so with the help of a Muse (who falls in love with him, presumably so she can drink free which she hasn't been able to do since Bacchus got demoted) and Gene Kelly who hangs out on the rockiest parts of the beach playing a clarinet badly when he's not being pumped for info on how to build the best club ever. There's even an animated sequence where the hero and Olivia are converted into fish and other things whilst crooning about their love. The Tubes ("She's a Beauty" and "White Punks on Dope") are merged with a Benny Goodman big band so they can really rock! And the climax is an "everybody skate!" moment in the ultimate club after Zeus has allowed Olivia to marry the hero because he did in fact obtain a liquor license, and to keep Gene Kelly off the beach with his damn clarinet. Still, I enjoyed it while I was watching it, and if it comes on TV, I leave it on.

"John Carpenter's The Thing." This was my "Citizen Kane" when I saw it. It flopped because it was the goriest thing ever released at the time, it ends ambiguously, there are no women in it, and it came out at the same time as "E.T. The Extraterrestrial" who was much cuter and much less goopy, of course. However, these days, it is being quietly acknowledged for the classic it is. But back in the day, when folks would ask me which was my favorite movie, and I'd say "The Thing," they'd either laugh out loud or back away slowly.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on April 7, 2003 12:03 PM

Thanks for the correction, Yahmdallah. How can I have scrambled up those two movies? Actually, deep down inside I remain skeptical -- you and the IMDB au contraire -- that they really were two different movies.

Wow, the riches here. The "Rocky" movies, especially the sequels. "Look Who's Talking," even the sequels. "Xanadu" -- who'd have thought? I haven't caught Carpenter's version of "The Thing," but I did see his semi-recent vampire movie, so I'm happy to join everyone else in looking at Yahmdallah disbelievingly.

Did I miss something? Why is no one 'fessing up to enjoying "Staying Alive"? Is that too much to ask?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on April 7, 2003 1:15 PM

Oh yeah, Carpenter's vampire moved, uh, sucked. "The Thing" is a great diversion. Make sure you see it on wide-screen DVD if choose to watch it. "Starman," "Halloween," and "The Thing" are the good ones in Carpenter's canon. The rest are either cult hits or sheer misses. Though, "Escape from New York" could go in either category.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on April 7, 2003 1:30 PM

Along the John Carpenter line, "Big Trouble in Little China" is not to be missed...

Posted by: jimbo on April 7, 2003 4:09 PM

Gad yes! I knew I was forgetting a big one! How could I have left the Pork Chop Express out? Thanks jimbo!

Posted by: Yahmdallah on April 8, 2003 11:47 AM

It's all in the reflexes...

Posted by: jimbo on April 8, 2003 2:52 PM


Ok, I'm watching that one again tonight!

Posted by: Yahmdallah on April 9, 2003 1:23 PM

Starring Ed Harris, directed by George Romero, in a modern-era medieval fantasy about jousting hippies on dirt bikes in a traveling Renaissance Faire. Ladies and gentle man, I offer a truly bad film that I am, like a car wreck, unable to turn away from..."Knight Riders".

Posted by: Jim 7 on April 9, 2003 3:02 PM

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