The Set of 400: #69 – My Favorite Half-Faced Sunburn

Today! Because I know this sounds crazy, but ever since yesterday on the road, I’ve been seeing this shape –

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x8)

Starring Richard Dreyfuss (x2), Melinda Dillon (x4), Teri Garr (x2), Bob Balaban (x3), Francois Truffaut (x2), Roberts Blossom (x3), Cary Guffey, J. Patrick McNamara, Warren J. Kemmerling, Philip Dodds, Lance Henriksen (x3), George DiCenzo

This movie was way too boring for us as kids. Like, I knew it existed, and from seeing the tape cover at the video store I knew there were aliens in it eventually, but whenever I caught a few minutes on TV it was always Richard Dreyfuss doing crazy shit in his house and a bunch of lab coat types in foreign crowds with loud music and singing and none of it made any sense. I don’t know for sure when I finally sat and watched the whole thing, but I want to say it was at least high school or later. Having grown up on alien adventure flicks, nothing about Close Encounters interested me for a long, long time.

Roy was just a little too looney tunes for us kids

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The Set of 400: #70 – My Favorite Horse Punch

Today! Because I must have killed more men than Cecil B. DeMille –

Blazing Saddles (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks (x5)

Starring Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder (x3), Harvey Korman (x3), Madeline Kahn (x6), Mel Brooks (x5), Slim Pickens (x2), Alex Karras, David Huddleston (x2), Dom DeLuise (x6), Burton Gilliam, John Hillerman (x2), Jack Starrett, Carol Arthur, Liam Dunn, Robyn Hilton, Count Basie, Robert Ridgely (x5), Charles McGregor

When people say “They wouldn’t make a movie like this today,” I find that they are normally talking about major studio output. Oh, they’d need a bigger star, they wouldn’t tackle this topic, it doesn’t have blockbuster potential. But in reality, someone somewhere would probably still make whatever movie they’re talking about, if they were able. Quality trumps a lot of financial obstacles, for just the right producer. All that being said, no one anywhere would make Blazing Saddles today.

It’s still funny, ballsy, and wonderful, but I can’t think of a movie aging more uncomfortably than this film. Case in point – you might watch this in your house and think “Oh, some of these jokes are a little rough, but overall it comes out okay.” However, a few years ago I saw this movie in a fairly crowded theater, and no one knew how to react. Was laughing at this wrong? But then why were we all there? It’s not an inherently racist movie, but my God, it goes to some dicey lengths. Richard Pryor’s work on the screenplay is pretty evident, but even at the time the studio was uneasy enough to vote against him also playing Sheriff Bart.

Cleavon Little does make a terrific Bart, though

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The Set of 400: #71 – My Favorite Misattributed Charlemagne

Today! Because we are on the verge of completing a quest that began almost two thousand years ago –

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)

Directed by Steven Spielberg (x7)

Starring Harrison Ford (x5), Sean Connery (x7), John Rhys-Davies (x3), Denholm Elliott (x2), Alison Doody, Julian Glover, Michael Byrne, River Phoenix (x2), Robert Eddison, Richard Young

In putting this list together in the summer of 2018, I needed to rewatch 60 or 70 films, mainly as it had been a while since I’d seen, say, Switch and The Dream Team. I remembered liking them, but how much did I still like them? And some movies straight missed out due to this rewatching – Lost Horizon, The Secret of NIMH, and Falling Down are not what 12-year-old Joe would’ve had me believe! One thing I didn’t think I would need to rewatch was Last Crusade, as I’d seen this movie a billion times, even if it had been a few years. But I just happened to catch it on TV around this time, and was surprised to find that (as of fall 2017) one of my top 20 films struck me quite differently than expected.

Now, I’d not seen Temple of Doom in a while either, and ended up watching them back-to-back. That may have hurt Last Crusade? Not because Temple of Doom is way better – I genuinely believe it is not – but that Last Crusade feels shockingly tired when viewed immediately after the Raiders’ prequel. It’s still largely what you remember – fun action pieces and terrifically funny scenes between Indy and his dad – but there’s also a lot of lame dialogue and pointless interluding that feel unnecessarily thrown in. I liked the River Phoenix flashback opener, but it feels gimmicky. And Indy meets Hitler?! Come on, have you always been okay with that choice?

“Nuking the Fridge” became a phrase, but it clearly should’ve been “Getting Hitler’s Autograph”

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The Set of 400: #72 – My Favorite Movie Theater Inferno

Today! Because if I don’t pick up this phone right here, you may very well get all four, and if you get all four, you’ll end the war – tonight –

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Directed by Quentin Tarantino (x4)

Starring Brad Pitt (x3), Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz (x2), Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender (x2), Diane Kruger, Daniel Bruhl (x2), B.J. Novak, Mike Myers (x2), Til Schweiger, Gedeon Burkhard, Jacky Ido, Omar Doom, Denis Menochet, Julie Dreyfus, Martin Wuttke, Lea Seydoux (x3), Samuel L. Jackson (x9)

Every Tarantino movie is an event, but Inglourious Basterds was something special. It was his first full length movie in five years – skipping the whole gimmicky Grindhouse thing, which was fine. I mean, come on, you don’t count Four Rooms when jumping from Pulp Fiction to Jackie Brown, do you? Of course not! So it had been since the second part of Kill Bill in 2004 – the rare Tarantino film that didn’t make this list – and this one was coming in a summer. How weird was that? Figure, Quentin hadn’t had a film with serious awards attention since ’94, so to take this movie out of the season for statues and drop it into August – that had to be something else, right? And man, it was.

Was it ever

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The Set of 400: #73 – My Favorite Bicycle Joust

Today! Because if it were our plane, it would be crashing –

Quick Change (1990)

Directed by Bill Murray and Howard Franklin

Starring Bill Murray (x8), Geena Davis (x3), Randy Quaid (x4), Jason Robards (x3), Phil Hartman (x2), Tony Shalhoub (x3), Philip Bosco (x3), Bob Elliott, Jack Gilpin, Reg E. Cathey, Jamey Sheridan, Kurtwood Smith (x2), Kathryn Grody, Stanley Tucci (x2), Victor Argo

If there was one Bill Murray movie that could be described as criminally underseen (for quality and also pun reasons) it would be Quick Change (with the possible exception of Nothing Lasts Forever). It wasn’t a big hit in its day – marketing issues, maybe? – but did land on cable repeatedly in that sweet spot period for me in the early ’90s, thus I began a long affection for this sorta dark, sorta zany bank robbery comedy. Because it has been a minor part of my life for so long, I have a random array of stories connected to it, so bear with me for a bit.

But first, hunt up Nothing Lasts Forever – it’s bananas

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The Set of 400: #74 – My Favorite Roulette Wager on 22

Today! Because there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade –

Casablanca (1942)

Directed Michael Curtiz (x2)

Starring Humphrey Bogart (x3), Ingrid Bergman (x4), Claude Rains (x2), Paul Henreid, Sydney Greenstreet (x2), Peter Lorre (x3), Conrad Veidt, Madeleine LeBeau, Dooley Wilson, S.Z. Sakall, Leonid Kinskey, John Qualen (x2)

Okay, okay, I can hear what you’re thinking:

“Oh, Casablanca? Like the greatest movie ever made is on this guy’s list? Oh, edgy choice, Joe. Way to go. Who’s in your top 100 favorite bands? Let me guess, The Beatles? Great work. Why the hell do I keep reading this thing?”

“What new is he gonna say about Casablanca? Oh, wait, I’ve got it – that the songs are great. That seems like the fun new spin he’ll throw on this. I mean, he put Evita on here, so clearly he focuses way too much on music. Maybe he’ll tell us what a great movie star Humphrey Bogart was. Maybe he’ll quote that whole final scene on the tarmac. Maybe he’ll just drown us in 500 words about Louie kicking that Vichy bottle. My goodness – Casablanca! What an asshole!”

Total doofus

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The Set of 400: #75 – My Favorite Bathroom Tiger

Today! Because I didn’t know they gave out rings at the Holocaust –

The Hangover (2009)

Directed by Todd Phillips (x3)

Starring Bradley Cooper (x2), Ed Helms (x4), Zach Galifianakis, Justin Bartha, Heather Graham (x3), Ken Jeong (x2), Mike Tyson, Rachael Harris (x2), Sasha Barrese, Jeffrey Tambor (x2), Mike Epps, Bryan Callen (x3), Rob Riggle, Cleo King (x2), Matt Walsh (x7), Jernard Burks

So again, as mentioned somewhere earlier, I’m not saying we got married at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas because of The Hangover – that’s completely insane – however, we never looked at their wedding facilities in person, booking thanks to YouTube videos of the gardens and whatnot. This was after we made a trip to Vegas expressly to check out venues. So either this should tell you how lackluster the matrimonial facilities are at the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, and the Bellagio (among others – we looked at a load of places), or that maybe we were more influenced by the epic search for Doug than we care to admit.

Not that Doug! The other Doug!

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