The Set of 400: #146 – My Favorite Hidey Hidey Hidey Ho

Today! Because they don’t have my address. I falsified my renewal, I put down 1060 West Addison –

The Blues Brothers (1980)

Directed by John Landis (x3)

Starring John Belushi (x2), Dan Aykroyd (x5), Carrie Fisher (x5), James Brown (x2), Aretha Franklin, Steve Cropper, Donald Dunn, Matt Murphy, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, John Candy (x8), Henry Gibson (x4), Lou Marini, Willie Hall, Kathleen Freeman (x3), Frank Oz (x5), Twiggy, Charles Napier (x3), Steve Lawrence, Steven Williams (x2), John Lee Hooker, Pinetop Perkins, Steven Spielberg, Alan Rubin, Tom Malone, Murphy Dunne

One night while still living in Scranton, with then-girlfriend Sarah’s brother and his then-girlfriend visiting, we all became gripped with the idea that we needed to acquire a copy of The Blues Brothers, immediately. As I’ve written somewhere before, I have something like 1800 movies on DVD, so not having The Blues Brothers was simply insane and unacceptable and needed to be remedied post haste. So we loaded into this Oldsmobile Achieva I was driving at the time and went to the only place still open at this late hour that might possibly sell a copy of the SNL classic – Wal-Mart. You’d be right to warn against the sorts potentially encountered at late night Wal-Mart, but that evening, I think those deviant sorts were us. We were rolling frozen concentrated orange juice down the aisles and causing general mayhem – and I’m honestly not sure if they even had The Blues Brothers. We ended up with a copy eventually, but I’m not sure if it was that night.

(Incidentally, this was also the night the gas pedal on the Achieva somehow got stuck down, and for a few seconds I was convinced we were going to die. There are some indications that we possibly did all fly into a coma that night, and that everything that has happened since has been some crazed dream, what with all the Red Sox World Series championships and the current occupant of the White House. Shit, is he still president in February of 2020?! This was like the summer of 2004, I think, so maybe brain-damaged induced fantasy would’ve run out of logic, chronologically and otherwise, by this point.)

Like, this really happened, didn’t it?

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The Set of 400: #147 – My Favorite Marquis of Queensbury Shoutout

Today! Because I think your in-laws are coming to pay you visit, Squire darling –

The Quiet Man (1952)

Directed by John Ford (x3)

Starring John Wayne (x3), Maureen O’Hara, Victor McLaglen (x2), Barry Fitzgerald, Ward Bond, Mildred Natwick (x2), Francis Ford (x2), Arthur Shields (x2), James O’Hara, Eileen Crowe, Sean McClory, Jack MacGowran (x2), Ken Curtis

Back in the days of my epic MySpace blog – where all of Parade Day was originally published – I ran a movie ranking not unlike this one, except it was encapsulated in a single post and focused on drinking movies. Parade Day, you may recall, is basically a comedy booze adventure itself, so maybe this was just the weird place I was in circa the early-to-mid ’00s. You see, when you commute to college, you largely miss getting the wild drunken antics out of your system, and so in some cases this chases you into your 30s. Anyway, that movie ranking – which I cannot find at present, with MySpace no doubt holding it hostage somewhere – was topped by that greatest of drinking films, John Ford’s brawling comic romance The Quiet Man, a movie so ingrained as a love letter to alcohol that it also dragged E.T. onto the list, for that one crazy sequence where E.T. and Elliott get hammered while the alien watches John Wayne romance Maureen O’Hara.

We’ll cover this again down the road

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The Set of 400: #148 – My Favorite Grand Central Station Ballroom Dance

Today! Because I’m hearing horses! Parry will be so pleased –

The Fisher King (1991)

Directed by Terry Gilliam (x2)

Starring Robin Williams (x3), Jeff Bridges, Mercedes Ruehl (x2), Amanda Plummer, Michael Jeter (x2), Harry Shearer (x3), Kathy Najimy (x2), David Hyde Pierce (x2), Tom Waits (x2), Carlos Carrasco, John de Lancie (x2)

Ah, comedies about mental illness! It’s a weird sweet spot to have, but its popping up over (#393 The Dream Team) and over (#193 They Might Be Giants) and over again (#286 Me, Myself and Irene) on this list means that it might be time to face facts – this is weirdly something I’m into. Now, The Fisher King is only sort of a comedy – that much is pretty definitely true. While all the aforementioned movies lean heavier on the laughs (okay, maybe not They Might Be Giants as much), if this one didn’t have Robin Williams at his manic zenith you’d be hard pressed to classify it as even kinda funny. Bridges’ asshole shock jock Jack tumbles mightily when one of his radio show callers goes on a shooting spree, and descends into alcoholic hell. Williams – a victim of this same gunman incident – emerges as a crazed homeless knight named Parry, and they progressively help each other, largely without knowing it, at least until the time comes to retrieve the Holy Grail on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Continue reading

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The Set of 400: #149 – My Favorite Kippered Herring

Today! Because I worked myself up from nothing to a state of extreme poverty –

Monkey Business (1931)

Directed by Norman Z. McLeod

Starring Groucho Marx (x4), Harpo Marx (x4), Chico Marx (x4), Zeppo Marx (x2), Thelma Todd, Rockliffe Fellowes, Harry Woods, Ruth Hall, Tom Kennedy

The Marx Brothers third feature film, and the first not based on one of their Broadway shows, Monkey Business attempts to expand their very stagey banter into a real motion picture, with largely good results. There are clearly some growing pains in this move – while the scope of the movie broadens out a bit, the team’s bread and butter remains the same, with extended comic dialogues and paired off routines between Groucho & Chico, Chico & Harpo, and Groucho & Zeppo. It would be another year before they truly figured out how to break the routine for good, in Horse Feathers.

Classic shtick!

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The Set of 400: #150 – My Favorite Monkey Funeral

Today! Because I am big, it’s the pictures that got small –

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

Directed by Billy Wilder (x2)

Starring Gloria Swanson, William Holden, Nancy Olson, Erich von Stroheim, Fred Clark, Lloyd Gough (x2), Jack Webb, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper (x2), Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner, Anna Q. Nilsson

Even for movies about movies, which lean heavy on this formula, Sunset Boulevard’s art-imitating-life bent is almost head-spinning. By many indications, Gloria Swanson was only amping up her own persona slightly in playing damaged, faded silent star Norma Desmond, while her former director turned butler Max Von Mayerling was played by accomplished Austrian actor Erich von Stroheim, who had himself directed Swanson in the 1929 drama Queen Kelly. Cecil B. DeMille appears as himself, as do Buster Keaton, H.B. Warner, and Anna Q. Nilsson. While Hollywood cameos in Hollywood-set films is nothing new, it’s the fact that these folks would play such degraded, forgotten versions of themselves in 1950, when former silent actors were basically out on the curb, that makes it all the more remarkable.

Aww, poor Buster

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The Set of 400: #151 – My Favorite Wagon Wheel Coffee Table

Today! Because he was very jealous, and I had these days of the week underpants –

When Harry Met Sally… (1989)

Directed by Rob Reiner (x3)

Starring Billy Crystal (x2), Meg Ryan, Bruno Kirby (x2), Carrie Fisher (x4), Steven Ford, Lisa Jane Persky, Michelle Nicastro, Kevin Rooney, Tracy Reiner (x2), Estelle Reiner

I like to think that my personal preference on this list is mine and mine alone, that maybe there were influences over the years steering me toward certain things, away from others, or just jamming something I might not have otherwise seen in front of my face for endless years until it lodged in my brain as something I really enjoyed. As you might have noticed, various of my family members had this effect on me growing up – with their Ghosts and She Wore a Yellow Ribbons and Rocky Horror Picture Shows. However, today, we come to my wife’s favorite movie, somehow, at number 151. Remarkable!

Congratulations, boots!

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The Set of 400: #152 – My Favorite Vending Machine Card Game

Today! Because if you want to get out of here, get rid of that monkey!

Toy Story 3 (2010)

Directed by Lee Unkrich (x2)

Starring Tom Hanks (x4), Tim Allen (x3), Joan Cusack (x3), John Ratzenberger (x4), Wallace Shawn (x3), Ned Beatty (x4), Michael Keaton (x6), Estelle Harris (x2), Don Rickles (x2), Laurie Metcalf (x3), John Morris (x2), Jodi Benson (x2), Blake Clark, Timothy Dalton, Kristen Schaal, Jeff Garlin, Bonnie Hunt, Whoopi Goldberg (x5), R. Lee Ermey (x2), Richard Kind (x3)

One of the most disconcertingly emotional movies ever made, Toy Story 3 manages to be alternatingly hilarious and heart-breaking, and forces you examine issues of loss and abandonment in ways that aren’t typical in mainstream entertainment. Hell, I would say it’s not something even esoteric filmmaking would attempt to inflict on an audience too often. If it weren’t for Buzz’s Spanish mode and hard-bitten, crime noir-ish gags from the telephone, I would say this might be the most insidiously horrifying children’s film ever created.

Oh Jesus Christ, that porch

Seriously, how do you navigate little ones through this movie? Is it possible to just separate the nightmare of Lotso’s life from all the Woody and Buzz adventures? I get that the ending is geared toward making adults cry – none of that can be anything kids will really understand – but what about the psychologically torturous aspects of this story? I would only imagine there are a million unanswerable questions raised through the middle section of this movie, straight through to Lotso’s end – which is no walk in the park either. And maybe that’s truly the genius of this film, and this whole series. We can examine the people and things we’ve lost – the parts of our lives that were left behind somewhere, by choice or just forgotten – without it killing us. Toy Story 3 sure as hell tries to rip you apart along the way, but in the end it’s okay. Like our heroes, we made it. Even if we narrowly escaped the landfill incinerator in the process.

Oh my God, that incinerator

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