Today! Because I lived through the Black Plague and had a pretty good time during that –
Directed by Tim Burton (x4)
Starring Alec Baldwin (x2), Geena Davis (x2), Michael Keaton (x8), Winona Ryder (x2), Catherine O’Hara (x4), Jeffrey Jones (x3), Sylvia Sidney (x2), Glenn Shadix (x3), Robert Goulet (x3), Dick Cavett, Susan Kellerman, Adelle Lutz, Tony Cox (x3)
What I’m always surprised by when watching Beetlejuice nowadays is how long it takes to get to Beetlejuice himself. Like, it’s nearly an hour into things when he finally shows up, and how much of the movie is he even in? Like twenty minutes? Did the cartoon really warp memories of this movie so much that I think of the film as the Beetle-and-Lydia show, even though they share no happy times together?
One of the oldest ticket stubs I have (I’ve got basically every movie stub since ’87, fools!), Beetlejuice thrilled nine-year-old me to no end. I doubt I knew at the time that this was the director of another young Joe favorite, Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, and certainly wasn’t aware that this creative team was deep in pre-production making the transformative movie of my young life – Batman. Allegedly, it was Beetlejuice‘s box office success that got Burton’s Batman greenlit for definite, after years of it bouncing between screenwriters and directors. So thanks, Ghost with the Most!
Today! Because if it hadn’t been for my flawless footwork, I’d be standing here a dead man today –
Without a Clue (1988)
Directed by Thom Eberhardt
Starring Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley (x3), Jeffrey Jones (x2), Paul Freeman, Lysette Anthony (x2), Nigel Davenport, Peter Cook (x2), Pat Keen, Matthew Sim, George Sweeney, Harold Innocent
The best Sherlock Holmes comedy ever made, Without a Clue operates under the idea that Ben Kingsley’s Watson is the true mastermind detective, having hired an actor to portray his literary creation, worried that his criminal hunting pastime might be frowned upon by his medical superiors. Michael Caine’s Reginald Kincaid is a womanizing drunk who only barely manages to keep it together enough to don the deerstalker and parrot Watson’s information back to Scotland Yard and the adoring public. The story begins with them years into this deception, their relationship fraying badly from Kincaid’s lackadaisical character upkeep and Watson’s frustration with hiding his genius.
Kingsley is better known and regarded for his dramas, but his comedy work is routinely excellent, including another role on this list, as the supposed Mandarin in #265 Iron Man 3. Opposite Caine doing his best egomaniac boob actor, they sell this premise, even as it leaps into high-stakes Holmesian mystery, battling their legendary adversary Moriarty (a very effective Paul Freeman). Terrifically funny supporting turns come from Jeffrey Jones’ clueless Lestrade, Nigel Davenport’s Lord Smithwick, and the always great Beyond the Fringe alum Peter Cook.
Today! Because if I had some place to go I certainly wouldn’t be in Cleve-land –
Howard the Duck (1986)
Directed by Willard Huyck
Starring Lea Thompson, Jeffrey Jones, Tim Robbins, Chip Zien, Holly Robinson, David Paymer (x2), Richard Kiley, Paul Guilfoyle, Dominique Davalos, Tommy Swerdlow, Miguel Sandoval
I am fully aware of how terrible a movie this is, thank you very much. And while I do have an unnatural affinity for bad films, not too many actually wound up on this list. The Room, the apex of modern awful cinema, lurked around the long list and kept angling to knock Rocky IV out of #400th, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. The circumstances needed to enjoy that movie are so specific that I felt they removed it from competition – has to be with a crowd, should be at midnight, I have to be at least four cocktails to the worse. So no, Howard the Duck isn’t just some guilty pleasure, cheeky, oh look how cute he thinks it’s funny to include lousy movies thing. I genuinely enjoy this pile of merde de canard.
Still, even though it doesn’t appear on the list, The Room‘s Greek God Greg Sestero does feature prominently in one of my favorite pictures ever