Last year at this time we looked at WWII movies. This year it’s WWI and may it bring to mind all who have sacrificed, and all who still do, for us and our freedom. Which movie would you pick of these three to be this week’s movie?
The star of this week’s movie is Michael Keaton, an actor I’ve heard being referred to as “washup up,” (until 2014, of course, when along came Birdman). He got his big break in the early-to-mid 80’s in films such as Mr. Mom and Johnny Dangerously and effortlessly made the transition into box office heavyweight when he became Beetlegeuse and Batman. After Batman Returns (1992) he starred in other commercially successful flicks, but things weren’t the same as his 80’s run. Usually people point to Jack Frost (1998) being the beginning of the end of his acting career. Sure he was still the famous Michael Keaton and he still was in successful movies, but he just wasn’t the big draw anymore. The term we tend to use to describe someone like this is “washed up.” This is an idiom I believe we need to let die.
The imagery, I suppose, is of some kind of ship, or anything that would have been of good use out in the big blue sea. Then, when it no longer served its purpose, it was tossed aside and washed up lethargically on shore. At least that’s the picture. But should anyone who has either lost popularity or simply stopped doing what they had been doing be referred to this way?
Remember when Phil Collins sang the soundtrack to Disney’s 1999 Tarzan? I’d heard he’d said that he was thankful to Disney because he was a “washed up” artist and they they had given his career a much needed boost. I hated hearing that. For me and millions of my peers Phil Collins had been one of the coolest voices with some of the coolest songs ever. And when we saw him in interviews it turned out that he was one of the coolest people too. He seemed like the kind of guy you’d like to hang around with. How could anyone call him that? I thought to myself.
I feel a little silly bringing this up. I mean, millionaire celebrities hardly come to mind as those amoungst us needing compassion. But I do feel bad… Are there really people out there who would call Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) or Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) that? Before he died, was Leonard Nemoy washed up? Or is it just the ones who are easier to mock like, say, Macaulay Caulkin or Paris Hilton? Either way, I feel bad saying it. Maybe it’s because my time is coming. Maybe I’ll be called “a washed up” mobile auto paint technician?? I’m not sure I can handle that kind of pressure!
Congratulations Beetlejuice. This is your week.
And the Oscar goes to…
Best Actor: Steve Martin as Orin Scrivello, DDS in Little Shop of Horrors. To this date he is still one of my favourite comedians of all time. Maybe even holding the #1 spot. Guess that’s a list I need to work on.
Best Quote: “Uh oh.” — Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) in Gremlins.
And now, my top 10 favourite acting comeback kids:
10. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
9. Drew Barrymore
8. John Travolta
6. Betty White
5. Robert Downey, Jr.
4. Winona Ryder
3. Michael Keaton
2. Joaquin Phoenix
1. Mickey Rourke
Movie of the Week
I used to think I didn’t like horror movies. But over the years I’ve learned that there are just certain kinds of horror movies that I don’t like, which generally can be put into 2 categories: gory and demonic. But watching a movie that creeps me out or gives me the spooks, that I can still appreciate. So without any further ado, here are the ones that reached their objective especially well with me:
9. Fright Night (1985) — I was with two fellow teenage boys who also happened to be my cousins. We rented this one from the Irving gas station down the road and loved the scariness of this vampire movie so much, we rewound the tape and watched it again.
8. American Werewolf in London (1981) — This time I was a preteen and seeing the main character transform into a werewolf was just horrifying to me. I still liked the movie though, and it seems to me there were even times in it that I laughed.
7. Signs (2002) — I was 30-years-old watching this one, but I did find it very scary at points. Shyamalan has a real gift of setting up a scene to scare you unexpectedly. I had that same enjoyment of being scared as I did when I watched Fright Night all those years earlier.
6. A Distant Thunder (1978) — I grew up in a church that was very practical and pragmatic in its approach to “win souls.” One of the popular methods of the day was to show scary movies about the “end times” to congregants. The movie was truly Christian as it showed no gore, no nudity, and had no swearing. It did, however, show adults and children alike being led to a guillotine to be executed for not taking the Mark of the Beast. It definitely scared me enough to make sure I was saved. And I mean like REALLY saved.
5. The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) — Though I don’t like demonic, this movie was based on true events and was listed as one of the most redemptive movies of 2005 according to a magazine I’d read that year. My sister had told me about the movie as well as the magazine review, so we decided to do watch it together. I believe it was daytime and we made sure the sun was shining in as we watched. We might have even played Abba music before and after the viewing. Scares me just thinking about it. (I mean the movie, not Abba)
4. The Sixth Sense (1999) — Again, I was a grown man at the viewing of this film, though there were so many scenes that were super scary to see. And the fact that it wasthrough a child’s eyes made it even scarier. And if Shyamalan set up good scare scenes in Signs, he does it perfectly—and twice as much—in this one.
3. The Blair Witch Project (1999) — This is my favourite kind of scary movie. It is so minimalist in its approach to scare you. And to really scare a person, you don’t need the bloody or drastic displays that you see in so many movies. There is nothing you can see in TBWP that is typical in horror films. No scary faces or figures. No weapon being suddenly wielded. No death being displayed. No making you jump. You see nothing that should really scare you, but you better believe it will. I love this movie.
2. Jaws (1975) — I was a preteen watching this one too, and it is the first movie I can remember having to close my eyes during a scene. One of the characters wants to get a better look at the shark (WTF??) and decides to go into the water in a shark cage. I was angry at him for deciding to do that, and even angrier at the other two characters for not stopping him. When the cage is starting to get lowered, I did more than close my eyes. I left the room. Just couldn’t handle the scary.
1. Paranormal Activity (2007) — Like The Blair Witch Project, this movie shows you nothing. It simply shows very usual people in very usual situations experiencing the unusual. I think that is what scares us the most. This was another movie that made me close my eyes, and by this time I was pushing 40!
Congratulations The Sixth Sense. This is your week.
Best Actress: Demi Moore in Ghost.
Best Actor: Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters.
Best Quote: “He’s cute. White, but cute.” — Whoopi Goldberg as Oda Mae Brown in Ghost.
This month I’ve watched The Phantom of the Opera (1925), Frankenstein (1931) and Dracula (1931). Sadly, I found them quite boring. But it is always a treat to see the movies that were the genesis of so many things we see in our Halloween celebrating today. Happy Halloween everyone.
Another Halloween theme: ghosts! Everyone loves (or at least loves to hate) a good ghost story. I chose 4 of the most popular and/or notorious ghost story films. Which one would you choose to be this week’s movie?
1. Ghostbusters (1984)
2. Ghost (1990)
3. The Blair Witch Project (1999)
4. The Sixth Sense (1999)
I asked a classroom of college students about their high school experiences. It was amazing to me how many used the phrase “I was the…” If it wasn’t “science nerd” or “stereotypical jock,” it was “awkward loner” or “class clown type.” For me, I attended one junior high school and was a slightly below average student. Then I moved to another school where I was voted “smartest person” in my class with an average of 82%.
That day in class, it was mostly just fun to look back at those formative years and how we fit into the puzzle of adolescent culture, but there’s no question here: we tend to pigeonhole ourselves and each other.
Poor Bela Lugosi was an outstanding stage actor whose downfall was the result of two things: a drug addiction and accepting any and every role offered to him. In the wake of this highly successful portrayal of Dracula every producer wanted to cash in on the mania. Because of giving into this typecast, he was both destroying his achievement (essentially making it a parody or tiresome joke) and destroying his career. Movie makers weren’t wanting to cast him in any other role. He was “the vampire.” Bleh bleh!
There is still a lot of typecasting done today in cinema. Michael Cera as an awkward teenager. Morgan Freeman as a wise old sage. Helena Bonham Carter as…. Well, any variety of eccentric female in a Tim Burton movie. Thankfully, most of them seem to surprise us at some point. The Truman Show is a great example. Everyone thought it was going to be a comedy because it was Jim Carrey. And many didn’t like it at first, but it grew in popularity. Maybe because we finally accepted him as a dramatic actor? I even thought it was cool when Julie Andrews voiced a character for Shrek 2.
There’s times when I like being in a comfortable role, and times I hate being pegged. The best we can do is to simply not count anyone out, including ourselves, and assume anything about them. We can insult, hurt, disappoint, or even rob people and ourselves in the process.
Congratulations Bela Lugosi and Dracula (1931). This is your week.
Best Actress: Mary Philbin as Christine Daae in The Phantom of the Opera (1925). If any actress ever looked like a China doll…
Best Actor: Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster in Frankenstein. I’ll bet he had fun narrating How the Grinch Stole Christmas alongside Tony the Tiger.
Best Quote: “Listen to them. Children of the night. What music they make.” — Bela Lugosi as Dracula in Dracula.
If any Hollywood scouts are reading this, and I’m sure you are, I’m still ok with playing the bald dad in a wrestling-themed movie.
I remember the first time being introduced to these actors and their respective characters when discovering a book at my aunt and uncle’s house. I loved reading about them and seeing the stills from their movies. It’s an interesting genre that still influences how we celebrate Halloween today. Which actor, his monster, and his movie would you choose to be this week’s movie?
The Phantom of the Opera (1925)
Lon Chaney, The Phantom
Boris Karloff, Frankenstein’s Monster
Bela Lugosi, Dracula
The Wolf Man (1941)
Lon Chaney Jr, the Wolf Man
Movie of the Week