The Set of 400: #228 – My Favorite Alexander Pope

Today! Because, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage –

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Directed Michel Gondry (x2)

Starring Jim Carrey (x3), Kate Winslet (x2), Tom Wilkinson (x2), Mark Ruffalo (x3), Kirsten Dunst (x3), Elijah Wood (x3), Jane Adams, David Cross (x2), Thomas Jay Ryan

A movie of raw emotion and ceaseless, crackling creativity, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is quite simply one of the best movies ever made. Look back at other posts – this isn’t something I throw around a lot. Yes, okay, I did say this about Fritz Lang’s M in #247, I think, but it’s not something I’ve said in the last week or two! And I know there’s sort of a knee jerk pessimistic reaction to anyone referring to anything even remotely recent as an all-time great (except apparently when it comes to NFL quarterbacks), but this movie is so different, so wildly inventive, and of such amazing depth that yes, I think if I ever get the balls to compile a 400 Best Movies list, this will have a place there as well. (But will Rocky IV still be #400?? Time will tell!)

I mean, probably, right?

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The Set of 400: #229 – My Favorite Prestidigitonium

Today! Because I can’t be a king, Archimedes. I don’t know anything about ruling a country –

The Sword in the Stone (1963)

Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman (x2)

Starring Karl Swenson, Rickie Sorensen, Sebastian Cabot (x2), Martha Wentworth, Alan Napier, Norman Alden, Junius Matthews

Another staple of the ’80s household, The Sword in the Stone seems to fade from the collective memory more with each passing year. I had never been to any Disney theme park before 2016, and then in rapid succession went to America’s both in six months, and for the life of me I didn’t see a lick of Sword in the Stone merch, and these are places simply teeming with swag. I could be wrong, but it seems like the handful of Disney films we really watched to death as kids are sorely represented now, in favor of recent hits (which makes total sense) and massive favorites, of the Dumbo, 101 Dalmatians, Snow White variety (which also makes sense). Couldn’t they create a Curiosities Corner, for mid-range animated films that aren’t exactly beloved classics but still have a passionate fanbase? There are a number of these films still to come, so I won’t completely illustrate which I’m referring to, but Sword in the Stone absolutely fits the bill.

Not on the list, but The Great Mouse Detective didn’t warrant so much as a Ratigan jock strap either

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The Set of 400: #230 – My Favorite Origami Unicorn

Today! Because those aren’t your memories, they’re somebody else’s –

Blade Runner (1982)

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring Harrison Ford, Sean Young (x2), Rutger Hauer, Daryl Hannah (x2), M. Emmet Walsh (x2), Edward James Olmos, William Sanderson, Brion James (x2), Joe Turkel, Joanna Cassidy, James Hong

I have a pair of what I’ve discovered are super unpopular opinions in regards to Blade Runner. 1) Ridley Scott might be the most overrated director in film history (Ouch!) and 2) I prefer the original theatrical version of the movie to the Director’s Cut (Yikes!). I know! Coming out hot!

So where the hell do I get off with my stupid ideas? Okay, first off, while Scott made a few admittedly great movies – Alien, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator maybe, The Martian – his reputation is such that you’d think it’s wall-to-wall masterpieces, when he was also behind the camera for middling near misses like American Gangster and Hannibal (Okay, I do kind of like Hannibal – the first half, anyway) and a bundle of absolutely awful films – Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus, Alien: Covenant, Exodus, Legend, Robin Hood, 1492, A Good Year, The Counselor. I’m not saying he’s a bad director – there are too many legitimately great movies on the resume – I’m saying he’s massively overrated. His name on a picture is no reason to see that picture, is all I’m saying.

Prometheus is, like, really, really bad

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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!

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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

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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

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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!

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