The Set of 400: #231 – My Favorite Webcam

Today! Because we’ll just tell your mother that we ate it all –

American Pie (1999)

Directed by Paul Weitz

Starring Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nichols, Eddie Kaye Thomas, Mena Suvari, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, Seann William Scott (x3), Shannon Elizabeth, Natasha Lyonne, Eugene Levy, Jennifer Coolidge, Chris Owen, John Cho, Molly Cheek, Casey Affleck (x2)

Going back-to-back on the well-represented year of 1999! Our eighth film from the last of the 19s, American Pie came along at just the right time for this guy. Figure, this movie gets made in one form or another every few years, with a few little twists, but this one came out squarely in the middle of my undergrad years, and so even though it’s an End of High School film, its chaotic drinking party sex comedy of the ’90s fit right in to my sensibilities.

’80s movies of the same basic structure – your Fast Times at Ridgemont Highs and the like – never really resonated with me, because they felt so unrelatable. The universal high school experience always has bits of similarity across the decades, but there’s something about it reflecting your own era. Thus, Dazed and Confused, Sixteen Candles, American Graffiti, The Breakfast Club – all good to great movies, none on this list, as they just weren’t mine. Not like American Pie.

Sorry, Long Duk Dong fans!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #232 – My Favorite Comic Book Convention

Today! Because that was a hell of a thing –

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Directed by Dean Parisot

Starring Tim Allen (x2), Sigourney Weaver (x4), Alan Rickman (x2), Sam Rockwell, Tony Shalhoub (x2), Daryl Mitchell, Enrico Colantoni, Missi Pyle, Justin Long (x2), Patrick Breen, Robin Sachs, Jeremy Howard, Rainn Wilson, Heidi Swedberg (x2), Kevin McDonald

I’m a pretty casual Star Trek fan, and even that might be overstating it. I’ve seen most of the movies – I’m probably missing one or two from the original cast and from the later Next Generation films, and there is no one version of the TV show I’ve seen in its entirety. My sister was the big ST:TNG fan, and so I watched a lot of it during its initial syndicated airing (not exactly an unpopular opinion – I was a Q episodes first/Holodeck episodes second kind of fan). But while this movie is clearly aimed at the Star Trek base, it really applies to almost any obsessive fandom, and I am chocked full of those, man.

I’m gonna marathon Q episodes soon, and when the wife is least expecting it

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #233 – My Favorite Lifebuoy Soap Advertisement

Today! Because you’ll shoot your eye out, kid –

A Christmas Story (1983)

Directed by Bob Clark

Starring Peter Billingsley, Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Scott Schwartz, R.D. Robb, Ian Petrella, Zack Ward, Yano Anaya, Tedde Moore, Jean Shepherd, Jeff Gillen

There’s a pretty distinct difference between watching a movie a lot and seeing a movie a lot. Sure, now they only seem to marathon the hell out of this thing right at Christmas, but like most everyone I know, this thing played constantly at my house the entire Christmas season for every year of my young life. Can anyone really ballpark how many times they’ve seen A Christmas Story? It might be a stretch, but I’d guess over the last three and a half decades this might be the most seen movie in America, short of maybe Star Wars and…I don’t know, Titanic? Even then!

And so I didn’t particularly love this movie, for a long long time. It’s hard to have any perspective on it, because you know every inch of A Christmas Story. You don’t even think about it in attempts to evaluate it. And for people who grew up with it, it feels like a remarkably old movie, mainly due to its exacting attention to period detail (except for its somewhat-ambiguous time setting – sometime before WWII but after The Wizard of Oz, sort of?) and its pervasive omnipresence during the holidays in the ’80s and ’90s. Come on, it’s everyone’s parents’ favorite Christmas movie, right? Just about?

The Old Man’s newspaper is allegedly from June of 1939, but no part of this movie takes place in June, so that doesn’t help

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #234 – My Favorite Sandbox Escape

Today! Because this book doesn’t have any answers!

The Simpsons Movie (2007)

Directed by David Silverman

Starring Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright (x2), Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Yeardley Smith, Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille (x2), Albert Brooks (x3), Tom Hanks (x2), Joe Mantegna

The debt of honor we as a people owe to Tracey Ullman can never truly be assessed. Yes, without Matt Groening and James L. Brooks and Sam Simon we wouldn’t have the decades of merriment and hilarity The Simpsons has given us, but without Ullman’s terrific sketch comedy show on the relatively new FOX network in the late ’80s, they may have never gotten a foot in the door as everyone’s favorite yellow skinned family (and then by extension we never would’ve gotten Futurama, still my pick as one of the top three or four consistently funny sitcoms ever made – The Simpsons has obviously been diluted down by the many years since its heyday).

Congratulations, meat bags!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #235 – My Favorite Science Squid

Today! Because you’ve stuck your webs into my business for the last time –

Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Directed by Sam Raimi (x2)

Starring Tobey Maguire (x3), Kirsten Dunst (x2), Alfred Molina (x2), Rosemary Harris (x2), James Franco (x2), J.K. Simmons (x4), Dylan Baker (x3), Bill Nunn (x3), Willem Dafoe (x3), Cliff Robertson (x2), Ted Raimi, Donna Murphy, Daniel Gillies, Bruce Campbell (x3), Elizabeth Banks (x4), Joel McHale, Elya Baskin, Daniel Dae Kim, Hal Sparks, Emily Deschanel, Louis Lombardi (x2), Joey Coco Diaz, Mageina Tovah

If you cast your mind back to the early ’00s, when there wasn’t a new superhero movie released every three months, the medium – while popular – still wasn’t regarded as one reliable for great storytelling. Everybody likes fun action movies, right? Especially the relatively bloodless superhero kind. And that’s what we’d been getting, for quite a while, somewhat infrequently.

Then in a one-two punch, we got the first sequels to X-Men and Spider-Man in ’03 and ’04, and all of a sudden you could see fully what was possible in this genre on the big screen. Epic, complicated stories with conflicted villains bent on more than just world domination or chaotic jokery. These films were the dawn of the modern tights-and-capes era we live in, and the pinnacles of their respective franchises.

Let’s not forget the debt of honor we all owe to Blade

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #236 – My Favorite Public Indecency

Today! Because sometimes things don’t work out and you never understand why –

Lenny (1974)

Directed by Bob Fosse

Starring Dustin Hoffman (x2), Valerie Perrine (x2), Guy Rennie, Gary Morton, Jan Miner, Stanley Beck, Michele Yonge, Rashel Novikoff, Bob Fosse

Bob Fosse’s towering, time-jumping, narratively-broken biography of comic Lenny Bruce is an absolutely gorgeous black-and-white, free-form exploration of the legendary stand-up’s rise to prominence amidst serious drug and legal problems, alongside his fascinating, destructive marriage. The jumps from documentary style interviews between Fosse and the characters of Bruce’s wife, agent, mother, etc., recreated club footage, and often contentious home life/backstage drama weave a hypnotic path through his life, resembling great jazz music, or really, an improv heavy Lenny Bruce routine (Huh! Probably the plan all along!). Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies

The Set of 400: #237 – My Favorite Poisonous Battle of Wits

Today! Because you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means –

The Princess Bride (1987)

Directed by Rob Reiner

Starring Cary Elwes (x5), Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Chris Sarandon (x2), Wallace Shawn (x2), Billy Crystal, Carol Kane (x2), Peter Falk (x2), Fred Savage, Christopher Guest, Peter Cook, Mel Smith

As perfect a movie with as goofy a framing device as exists, The Princess Bride functions so well as a storybook fantasy, a love story, a swashbuckling, sword-fighting epic, and an out-and-out comedy that maybe the criticism could be that it does too much? Like, doesn’t this one movie seem like it could’ve been a great five season TV show, from, like, Starz? Maybe if it was written today it would be. But don’t give anyone the idea!

But yes, the sweeping tale of Wesley and Buttercup travels to distant lands, encounters monsters and giants and wizards, features much swordplay and vengeance, and is couched in our world, with Peter Falk’s grandfather reading the book to Fred Savage as he’s sick in bed. Why? I’m not totally sure. And I don’t know why it has always bothered me – it’s an intrinsic part of the movie, used to continually break up the action and mood with these cutaway scenes to 1980s Chicago to keep reestablishing the narrative. I know it’s a thing movies do, but I just don’t get why it’s here. Seriously, when you’re watching Princess Bride, are you anxiously awaiting the next smash back to Fred Savage’s “Kissing is yucky” nonsense?

At least he’s dedicated to the Monsters of the Midway. Bear down!

Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Movies