Tag Archives: Gene Hackman

The Set of 400: #21 – My Favorite Closet Full of Board Games

Today! Because I’ve always been considered an asshole for about as long as I can remember. That’s just my style –

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Directed by Wes Anderson (x4)

Starring Gene Hackman (x5), Angelica Huston (x4), Ben Stiller (x3), Luke Wilson (x4), Gwyneth Paltrow (x6), Owen Wilson (x5), Bill Murray (x11), Danny Glover (x2), Kumar Pallana (x2), Seymour Cassel (x3), Alec Baldwin (x4), Stephen Lea Sheppard, Andrew Wilson (x3)

Back in #267 The Life Aquatic, I posited that Wes Anderson’s distinctive style truly began with that film, but the entire blueprint was in place in The Royal Tenenbaums. While Aquatic often feels like an over-directed showcase of filmmaking more than a cohesive movie, Anderson hadn’t gotten all that carried away with himself when tackling his third film, and first after his big breakthrough on Rushmore three years earlier. It would take a little time after Aquatic to reconcile the manner of hyper-detail oriented production design with large idiosyncratic cast to compelling storylines – arguably until Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 – but the rougher version of this concept is fully on display here.

And while most of Anderson’s films work best due to their expertly crafted screenplays and oddball twists, Tenenbaums might be the only one primarily driven by the slate of tremendous performances across its eclectic cast. Hackman was purportedly a nightmare to work with on this film, but he delivers his career best comedic performance as the half charlatan patriarch Royal, in one of his last roles before retiring in ’04 (thanks for nothing, Welcome to Mooseport!). He was snubbed by the Oscars, thanks to that enduring bias against comedies, but did get a Globe nomination, plus wins at the AFI Awards, the Chicago Film Critics, and the National Society of Film Critics. The rest of the cast is no slouch either – Stiller’s apoplectic track-suited Chas, Paltrow’s morose theater maven Margot, and especially Luke Wilson’s shattered tennis pro Richie – the inspiration for one of my many failed Halloween costume efforts of years past.

It’s okay, I know I look more Bjorn Borg than the Baumer

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The Set of 400: #30 – My Favorite Brain Depositary (After 5:00 Slip Brains Through Slot in Door)

Today! Because my grandfather’s work was doo doo!

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Directed by Mel Brooks (x7)

Starring Gene Wilder (x6), Marty Feldman (x3), Peter Boyle (x3), Teri Garr (x3), Cloris Leachman (x5), Madeline Kahn (x8), Kenneth Mars (x2), Gene Hackman (x4), Richard Haydn, Liam Dunn (x2), Oscar Beregi Jr., Danny Goldman

No one can be dead certain about what movie they’ve seen the most times in their life. How could they be? Unless you’ve undertaken some quest to make a film your most watched – like the stories of people watching Pirates of the Caribbean on Netflix every day for a year, or my wife with the first X-Files movie – how could you possibly know? And while I believe I’ve thrown out contenders for this title in this list so far – and am still fairly confident I haven’t seen anything more than the original Star Wars – quite possibly second or third is this, Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s crowning achievement. I can’t even say for sure why or how this happened – sure, my parents really liked this movie, that helped to get it on the television a lot growing up, but why did we want to watch this black and white horror film parody, when we couldn’t possibly understand the references, and the jokes were likely over our heads as well?

Well, being a Mel Brooks movie, there is a bunch of kid-appealing stuff in this send-up of the old Universal Frankstein pictures, most directly the often overlooked third movie, Son of Frankenstein. Lots of funny accents, lots of throwaway sight gags and sound cues (The cat getting hit by the dart!), some pretty zany characters who are funny no matter what they say (pretty much everyone in this movie, but especially Marty Feldman’s Igor and Kenneth Mars’ one-armed Inspector Kemp), plus the generally cool design. Even if there’s a fair amount of shtupping going on – even in the edited TV version, apparently! – and some old timey references (“Pardon me, boy – is this the Transylvania station?”), we still liked it well enough. Like Blazing Saddles, this strikes me as something that was kind of forced on us until we grew to enjoy it.

Everything Mars does in this movie is amazing

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The Set of 400: #35 – My Favorite Rio Bravo Confusion

Today! Because what’s the point of living in L.A. if you’re not in the movie business?

Get Shorty (1995)

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (x2)

Starring John Travolta (x2), Rene Russo (x2), Gene Hackman (x3), Danny DeVito (x6), Delroy Lindo, James Gandolfini (x3), Dennis Farina (x2), Bette Midler, Jon Gries (x3), David Paymer (x4), Renee Props, Martin Ferrero (x3), Miguel Sandoval (x3), Jacob Vargas, Linda Hart, Bobby Slayton, Harvey Keitel (x4), Penny Marshall, Alex Rocco

Ah, movies about movies! Plus, Elmore Leonard! Plus, everyone’s favorite Travolta – the mid-’90s, gigantic star variant! Get out of here with your Vinnie Barbarino! Plus, mobsters! This is a movie I have a huge blindspot on – I’ve had this on the high end of my favorite movies lists for years, and I honestly don’t know if anyone watches or thinks about it anymore.

Figure, the post Pulp Fiction Travolta oeuvre included a bunch of hits, but seriously, when was the last time you watched Phenomenon? Or Michael? Or Broken Arrow? Thankfully he made Battlefield Earth and put an end to this stretch of illogical success, or we might be getting huge Travolta vehicles to this day!

Instead, we now get things like this

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The Set of 400: #199 – My Favorite Niagara Falls Excursion

Today! Because these humans are beginning to bore me –

Superman II (1980)

Directed by Richard Lester (and Richard Donner (x3), somewhat)

Starring Christopher Reeve (x2), Margot Kidder (x2), Gene Hackman (x2), Terence Stamp (x4), Sarah Douglas (x2), Jack O’Halloran (x2), Jackie Cooper (x2), Ned Beatty (x3), Valerie Perrine (x3), Susannah York (x3), Clifton James (x2), E.G. Marshall (x2), Marc McClure (x3), John Ratzenberger (x3), Shane Rimmer, Pepper Martin

A good case for being the only solid movie starring Big Blue ever made, Superman II‘s production history is as entertaining as the movie itself – what with the crazy plan to film it concurrently with the original film in 1977 and ’78, the scrapping of this plan partway through, the firing of original film director Donner, a bunch of the actors quitting – including Hackman, requiring massive rewrites and doubling, the death of some key crew members, the lawsuits by Marlon Brando and against Christopher Reeve, and the fact that despite all this turbulence – and replacement director Lester’s decidedly different spin on the sequel – virtually everyone you talk to agrees that this movie is far superior to the original.

You know what? I’m good.

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The Set of 400: #305 – My Favorite Reversequake

Today! Because you’ll believe a man can fly –

Superman (1978)

Directed by Richard Donner

Starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty, Jackie Cooper, Glenn Ford, Valerie Perrine, Phyllis Thaxter, Marlon Brando, Susannah York, Trevor Howard, Terence Stamp (x2), Marc McClure (x2), Jack O’Halloran, Sarah Douglas, Maria Schell, Jeff East, Larry Hagman, John Ratzenberger, Harry Andrews

For my entire childhood, this was the only superhero franchise we had. And like a number of other franchises I’ve mentioned, I get the Superman movies waaay mixed up. It doesn’t help that they filmed parts one and two back-to-back, so everyone looks the same, and all the villains from II cameo in I. These two movies are more a single movie than most films with their sequels. Sure, they cut Godfather I and II together effectively as the Godfather Epic eventually, but watching them one after the other in their original form doesn’t bind them together better. But hell, I really have a hard time distinguishing individual scenes from the first two Superman movies to this day. And parts of III, for that matter.

III is bizarre, but I watched it a ton as a kid

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