Tag Archives: Wallace Shawn

The Set of 400: #87 – My Favorite Planetarium Date

Today! Because not everybody gets corrupted. You have to have a little faith in people –

Manhattan (1979)

Directed by Woody Allen (x11)

Starring Woody Allen (x8), Diane Keaton (x3), Michael Murphy (x6), Mariel Hemingway (x2), Meryl Streep (x2), Anne Byrne, Michael O’Donoghue, Wallace Shawn (x6), Karen Allen (x3), David Rasche (x3), Mark Linn-Baker (x2), Frances Conroy, Charles Levin, Karen Ludwig

Well, here we are again, folks. The 11th – eleventh! – Woody Allen movie on the list. When I was first putting this thing together, compiling a long list to select from, I didn’t really pay attention to things like how many movies from so-and-so made it, how many movies from what year, etc. That shouldn’t matter when just straight evaluating what your favorites are – but the fact that this is the second-to-last Allen film here at #87 leads me to believe that I probably packed too many of his films in the far reaches of this list. Not only is he far and away the most frequent director as of today, he also is now tied for the most frequent actor, hitting number eight today. And, while I firmly believe this is one of his two or three best movies, it’s also the creepiest, by way of foreshadowing his real life.

This isn’t something that is overly prevalent in Woody’s films as time went on. Sure, there are a lot of films where older men are romantically involved with far younger women, but come on, this is Hollywood! It’s hardly an exclusive problem to this filmmaker. But considering the first round of scandalous issues Woody ran into, this movie stands out as the stark example of his perhaps icky predilections. Mariel Hemingway is, like, really young in this movie – her character is still in high school and all of seventeen, as they are quick to repeat throughout. And it all works for the movie – this isn’t just an indictment of this version of Woody’s writer character – but in retrospect, well, it’s a little glaring.

Sure, she’s seventeen, but she looks fucking twelve

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The Set of 400: #97 – My Favorite Argument Against Capes

Today! Because under tremendous public pressure and the crippling financial burden of mounting lawsuits, the government quietly initiated the Superhero Relocation Program –

The Incredibles (2004)

Directed by Brad Bird (x2)

Starring Craig T. Nelson (x2), Holly Hunter (x2), Jason Lee (x2), Samuel L. Jackson (x7), Sarah Vowell, Spencer Fox, Elizabeth Pena, Brad Bird, Wallace Shawn (x5), John Ratzenberger (x6), Dominique Louis, Teddy Newton

For a good number of years the gold standard in superhero cartoons, and really, superhero movies in general, The Incredibles came along at just the right time. The Spider-Man and X-Men films were in full swing, but we were still years away from the MCU and the great Nolan Bat pictures (Batman Begins, being a weird prequel to The Dark Knight, does not count), so Pixar jumped in and filled that cape-and-laser void with a terrific story of supers hiding in retirement, being dragged back to battle a new foe. Quick – top of your head – when is this movie set? It never casually occurs to me that it isn’t the modern day – just a really retro designed modern day – but no! It’s set in this alternate reality 1960s, obviously. There isn’t anything to necessarily throw you off from this idea, it just doesn’t stick with me for some reason.

Maybe I’m just a moron when it comes to mid-century furniture design

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The Set of 400: #137 – My Favorite Crane Game

Today! Because I’m actually from a smaller company that was purchased by Mattel in a leveraged buyout –

Toy Story (1995)

Directed by John Lasseter (x2)

Starring Tom Hanks (x5), Tim Allen (x4), Don Rickles (x3), Wallace Shawn (x4), Jim Varney (x2), John Ratzenberger (x5), Laurie Metcalf (x4), R. Lee Ermey (x3), Annie Potts (x2), John Morris (x3), Erik von Detten, Penn Jillette (x2)

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I have a soft spot for the first films in movie series, even if the sequels are demonstrably better. This doesn’t extend to superhero movies for some reason, but in many other cases when people point to the superiority of a second or third film, I still feel beholden to the original as my favorite – you will see the bundle of examples of this in days to come.

I just think the degree of difficulty is so much higher when you have to tell an interesting, engaging story while also setting up your whole world and potential franchise. Sure, in many cases, the filmmakers weren’t operating under the idea that their movie needed to be the launching pad for a massive, multi-decade tale, which makes it all the more impressive when the original story can hold up and function as the solid backbone everything else stems from. Continue reading

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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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The Set of 400: #237 – My Favorite Poisonous Battle of Wits

Today! Because you keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means –

The Princess Bride (1987)

Directed by Rob Reiner

Starring Cary Elwes (x5), Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Andre the Giant, Chris Sarandon (x2), Wallace Shawn (x2), Billy Crystal, Carol Kane (x2), Peter Falk (x2), Fred Savage, Christopher Guest, Peter Cook, Mel Smith

As perfect a movie with as goofy a framing device as exists, The Princess Bride functions so well as a storybook fantasy, a love story, a swashbuckling, sword-fighting epic, and an out-and-out comedy that maybe the criticism could be that it does too much? Like, doesn’t this one movie seem like it could’ve been a great five season TV show, from, like, Starz? Maybe if it was written today it would be. But don’t give anyone the idea!

But yes, the sweeping tale of Wesley and Buttercup travels to distant lands, encounters monsters and giants and wizards, features much swordplay and vengeance, and is couched in our world, with Peter Falk’s grandfather reading the book to Fred Savage as he’s sick in bed. Why? I’m not totally sure. And I don’t know why it has always bothered me – it’s an intrinsic part of the movie, used to continually break up the action and mood with these cutaway scenes to 1980s Chicago to keep reestablishing the narrative. I know it’s a thing movies do, but I just don’t get why it’s here. Seriously, when you’re watching Princess Bride, are you anxiously awaiting the next smash back to Fred Savage’s “Kissing is yucky” nonsense?

At least he’s dedicated to the Monsters of the Midway. Bear down!

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The Set of 400: #240 – My Favorite Children’s Show Cliffhanger

Today! Because you never forget kids like Emily or Andy, but they forget you –

Toy Story 2 (1999)

Directed by John Lasseter, Ash Brannon, Lee Unkrich

Starring Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack (x2), Kelsey Grammer, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger (x2), Don Rickles, Jim Varney, Annie Potts, Wayne Knight (x2), Laurie Metcalf (x2), Estelle Harris, John Morris, R. Lee Ermey, Andrew Stanton, Jodi Benson

The middle child of quite possibly the greatest film trilogy in history, and also the first movie I saw at the Cinemark in Moosic – a theater still open to this day (as of this writing, anyway), Toy Story 2 doesn’t have the benefit of introducing us to the toy world (even though it does add a bunch of great new characters), nor does it get to wrap things up to such devastating effect as the third film did, the first sequel is nonetheless a monumentally great film.

(Again, for your edification, as of this writing the fourth film has not been released. In fact, the first teaser trailer for that movie literally came out today – for you Set of 400 sleuths trying to determine when the hell I actually strung these drafts together.)

What the hell is the deal with this fork??

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