1. Newsies (1992)
2. The Blues Brothers (1980)
3. Annie (1982)
When I was just 6 years old I figured out the sure-fire way to steal a show. At least at Halloween. Every year at my childhood school there was not just a class Halloween party, but a school-wide Halloween party. And part of that event was a “best costume” contest. I LOVED dreaming up costume ideas AND I equally loved winning contests like this. Now I’m not sure why I was so certain about my idea at such a young age, but I just knew that if I dressed up like a girl I would steal the show and win best costume.
The day came. I wore my sister’s dress. A wig my mom had in the house (and no, she didn’t wear one), panty hose, bracelet, necklace, even pumps. And I won. The next year I didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off again, so I chose another idea. I didn’t win. So guess what I did the following year. That’s right. Dressed up like a girl. And won again.
Grade 4 was the most interesting. It was our class’s turn to be judged, so we stood up and got ready to parade in front of our teachers, who were the judges. My friend Todd whispered to me, “I got this one. I’m beating you!” He was dressed as Superman, and I have to say it was a great costume. It even had built in muscles. That’s common now, but it wasn’t back then. I just said, “We’ll see.” It was great to look at his face as I was proclaimed the winner for the third time in four years by teachers who laughed like it was their first time seeing such a thing.
In college I worked for a summer camp in between academic years. The director that year asked me to co-direct Horsemanship Camp with her. Part of the camp’s programming included a variety show and she wanted a good idea to really get the kids’ to react. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, but—you guessed it—I dressed in drag yet again. At Christian camps there are always rallies, and at those rallies there are always kids cheering and screaming for anything and everything. But I hadn’t heard any sound all summer long like the uproarious reaction to my walking onto the stage after being introduced as “Troyeena.”
Having said all that, don’t expect any more antics like this out of me. That was my last time dressing as the opposite gender and I intend to keep it that way. No screaming crowd or chocolate bar best costume prize is going to lure me to repeat. But I have to say, stealing the show sure is fun.
Congratulations Some Like It Hot. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Of course it is Marilyn Monroe. There was, and is, no one like her. My brother said he had a thing for her, and I must say, so do I. Well… actually there are two kinds of men: those who have a thing for Marilyn and those who lie about it. SLIH is a movie with lots of stars, but Monroe does what she does best: steals the show. As Roger Ebert said, “What a work of art and nature is Marilyn Monroe.”
Best Actor: Charlton Heston. Ironically I’ve always found his acting a little wooden, but his roles in this movie and in The Ten Commandments are unmistakably memorable, even legendary.
Best Quote: “One God, that I can understand; but one wife? That is not civilized!” — Sheik Ilderim in Ben-Hur.
The funny thing is that Marilyn was not the most favourite person on the set of SLIH. In fact, she wasn’t invited to the wrap party. Even though she stole the show she was hated by the rest of the cast and crew for routinely showing up hours late each day during filming, requiring over 40 (even 50!) takes for short scenes with simple lines, and sometimes would refuse to come out of her dressing room. But we still love her, don’t we?
My top 10 favourite show stealers:
10. Val Kilmer in Tombstone
9. Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air
8. Randy Quaid in Christmas Vacation
7. Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids
6. Chloe Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass
5. Jack Black in High Fidelity
4. Dustin Hoffman in Rainman
3. Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny
2. Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight
1. Christian Bale in The Fighter
[Honourable mention: Randy Savage vs Ricky Steamboat at Wrestlemania III]
In July of 1998 I had two incredible experiences, and they both happened in the span of two weeks. The first was a trip to Russia. The second was way better, but before I get to that one, I have to say that crossing the Atlantic Ocean, and therefore crossing a big cultural divide, was an extremely valuable learning experience for me. The leaders prepared us for the culture shock we would experience: riding public transit, eating Russian food, going to an Russian Orthodox Church worship service with the hopes of not offending any babushkas. They warned us that we would experience “cultural dissonance.” This happens when you experience something that’s different from what you’re used to, different from your own culture and norms. This can tend to rub us the wrong way and seem “off” to us (Like in music; you hear a note that’s off and it can drive you nuts! That’s musical dissonance.). For me it was after watching a pretty fantastic circus show in Moscow. After it was all over, the huge crowd left the venue through two doors. Huge crowd. Two doors. There was an entire row of glass doors, just like in North American arenas. But only two were unlocked. This seemed crazy to me and I was immediately tempted to think ignorantly. “That’s stupid!” “Don’t they realize this doesn’t make sense?” “What’s wrong with these people?” But I’ve found the best way to respond to cultural dissonance is by simply making your best Obama-meme face and uttering two words to yourself: “That’s different.”
There’s also such a thing as what I would call generational dissonance. When I was a kid I didn’t like the pants my grandfather wore. His generation weren’t into jeans, neither did they seem to accept the ubiquity of t-shirts. For pants they wore loose fitting pants they liked to call “slacks” along with suspenders and collared, long-sleeve, button-up shirts. Then again, I also wasn’t crazy about the bell bottoms from my uncle’s generation. They were so ridiculous to me. My peers and I had clothes figured out. But I soon discovered that generational dissonance wasn’t restricted to just previous generations. Like most Gen-Xers I had, and still have, a real distaste for saggy pants. And it’s not just that I don’t like the look and won’t wear them. I also get a strong urge to haul guys’ pants up when I see them walking through a mall like this. I’m worse than my grandfather ever was!
To watch an Akira Kurasawa movie you would need to experience some cultural and generational dissonance. Cultural: one has to endure subtitles (or worse, dubbed English) and depictions of life in Japan, as opposed to the typical American setting and cultural nuances found in Hollywood movies. Generational: it’s a black & white oldie, lacking all the splash of today’s blockbusters. But just like my trip to Russia, if you can get over those minor hurdles you’re in for a treat. The stories are unique and original—the plot descriptions alone draw you in! In fact, those plots were so influential they’ve been copied by more modern favourites like Star Wars. Did you enjoy A Bug’s Life? Essentially, it’s a remake of Seven Samurai. The same is true for The Magnificent Seven, The Dirty Dozen and The Guns of Navarone.
His directing was influential, too—even his camera shots. You know how there are scenes in movies where a person or group look up and see an army forming along the horizon of a hill? It’s used a ton of times in all kinds of films. And it’s Kurosawa’s. It’s known as his “horizon shot.”
I loved all of these AK movies represented this week. I’m partial to Ikiru and Rashômon, though Seven Samurai takes the cake with most movie fans. All four movies are on the IMDb top 250 list, but Samurai lands at an impressive #20, beating out favourites like It’s A Wonderful Life, Braveheart, Back to the Future, even Casablanca!
Oh, and the other incredible experience I had in July of 1998? After I got home from my trip to Russia, Joy told me she had a gift for me. It was a pregnancy test. We were expecting our first child.
Congratulations Seven Samurai. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Masako Kanazawa as Machiko Kyô. Seriously. Watch Rashômon and you’ll love her.
Best Actor: Ikiru is a moving story to say the least. Though at times I feel he does a little too much sad face, Takashi Shimura is the center of one of the most touching and haunting scenes in film history (to quote my friend Dave).
Best Quote: Uttered by Sanjuro while he’s standing in a street littered with corpses: “Now we’ll have some peace and quiet in this town” in Yojimbo.
That baby is now 16. I have two more precious years with her before she is eligible to leave home and make it on her own. And to her I dedicate this bonus movie quote from Ikiru:
Ok, many of you are wondering, “Who the blazes is Akira Kurosawa??” He was a Japanese filmmaker, but you’re probably still wondering why these old movies of his are the theme this week. Well, he was highly influential in movie making and is a bona fide legend (admittedly an overused term, but it’s true in this case). If you’ve never seen any of these movies, pick the one that to you has the best hook of a storyline:
Dystopia (dis-TOH-pee-uh) – a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.
As I said before, one of my daughter’s favourite movies is Divergent, and I have to agree is very good. And here is a cool thing I’ve noticed about dystopian movies: Even though they share a common theme they all manage to come up with very unique and original stories. Maybe it’s because our human imaginations come alive when we dream up dismal, miserable situations. On a more optimistic angle, maybe we love to invent such settings because we enjoy imagining the human spirit fighting back and busting through the oppression.
There are so many great dystopian movies, which prompts me to make some lists. I hope you enjoy:
IMDb’s top ten dystopian movies [according to appearances in the IMDb Top 250 as of 01/10/15]
10. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014, #239)
9. Terminator (1984, #211)
8. Twelve Monkeys (1995, #204)
7. V for Vendetta (2005, #145)
6. Blade Runner (1982, #135)
5. Metropolis (1927, #108)
4. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015, #68)
3. A Clockwork Orange (1971, #81)
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991, #41)
1. Matrix (1999, #18)
My Top 10 Favourite Dystopian Society Movies
10. Minority Report (2002)
9. Hunger Games (2012)
8. Matrix (1999)
7. The Island (2005) — Well, the first half of the movie is greatness. The second half it goes back to being a Michael Bay movie
6. The Book of Eli (2010)
5. Children of Men (2006)
4. Snowpiercer (2013)
3. Planet of the Apes (1968)
2. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
1. District 9 (2009)
“Utopian” places depicted in movies that I’d love to visit
8. Hill Valley in the year 1955 or 2015 (1985 version not so much)
7. Jurassic Park (before it went all crazy, of course)
6. Pizza Planet
5. Tony’s Restaurant (And I’d want to do the famous spaghetti kiss with Joy)
4. Muppet Theatre
2. Cloud City
1. The Shire
Congratulations Robocop. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actress: Sharon Stone in Total Recall. She’s an excellent actress and knows how to take charge of the screen.
Best Actor: Nope. Not choosing Ahnold. This one goes to Brad Pitt in Twelve Monkeys. It’s an excellent movie, though the only thing most people talk about when this movie comes up is him.
Best Quote: “Dead or alive, you’re coming with me.” — Peter Weller as Robocop.
And finally, may none of us ever have the misfortune of living in a dystopian society.
This week I watched Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I with my wife and daughters. Thinking of this movie and how my daughter Erika loves the Divergent series (books and movie both) I thought this would be a good category to choose from. Which dystopian movie will be our movie of the week?