JonahKeri.com’s Top 20 Movies of All-Time: Honorable Mentions (Nos. 21-40)
Ah, December 22, 2008.
A time when every publication in the universe has slashed its freelance budget, creating a dearth of available work.
At this time of year, even when life is kind enough to send assignments ranging from long-term baseball prospects to Japanese culture essays, college hoops analyses and fun Q&As (more on these in good time), the sources needed to complete these assignments are sunning themselves on a beach somewhere while you’re stuck under two feet of snow and a nasty case of Cabin Fever (not to be confused with the far more awesome Cabin Boy Fever).
With nowhere to go and nothing to do but watch the remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it’s clearly time to continue JonahKeri.com’s long-awaited–and long-neglected–Top Movies series. And yes, that will be the last mention of a Tim Burton movie here, though our streak of posts mentioning Johnny Depp in chocolate-related films now stands at two.
Last time, we tackled reader submissions, the Honorable Mentions to the Honorable Mentions.
This time, we delve into the actual Honorable Mentions. These are the movies that just missed the Top 20. We’ll call them Nos. 21-40, though in no particular order. Since we’re tackling 20 movies in this post (as opposed to the five at a time we’ll cover in breaking down the Top 20), we’ll keep the commentary short.
Here we go:
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: All the climactic stuff is there, and Peter Jackson even deigns to yank the spider scene out of the second installment and chuck it into the third, going against the order set forth in the books. Still, this is my least favorite of the trilogy. Preferred the Helm’s Deep battle scene of The Two Towers over the Gondor quagmire, and the character development and newness of The Fellowship of the Rings over the slight battle fatigue that sets in by the time Part Three rolls around. One of ’em was going to miss the cut, and this was it.
Swingers: This was addressed last time, but it bears repeating. How can we compare the great cinematic masterpieces of all-time with some of the silly (albeit awesome) comedies in movie history?
From here on out, I’m calling this The Swingers Dilemma. When this movie came out, it spoke to me. I grew up with pickup artist friends who went to mysterious clubs. I made an ass of myself countless times over 3:30 a.m. drunken breakfasts. And I sure as hell spent a ton of hours playing NHL ’94 trying to make Gretzky’s head bleed (my usual support for #99 notwithstanding). I’m leaving Swingers just outside my Top 20, ironically because Swingers doesn’t quite do enough to get over The Swingers Dilemma. I really love this movie, though.
Back to the Future: I mean, how could you not love this movie, if you’re anywhere near my age? Or if you’ve seen it 50 zillion times on TBS reruns, for that matter? 1.21 jigawatts!!!!!
Groundhog Day: The most repetitive movie of all-time may also be the one I enjoy rewatching the most. Ned Ryerson is one of the best movie characters in the history of the universe, and nobody can tell me otherwise. When I found out that Ned (real name Stephen Tobolowsky, dig this awesome Ned trivia) was a recurring character on my Netflix show du jour, “Deadwood”, I nearly made the same chipmunk sound that Nancy makes when she gets REALLY excited.
Zelig: The problem with Woody Allen movies, as I noted last time, is that there are so many great ones that it’s hard to choose. This is my favorite, though. Annie Hall is the popular choice, and I know lots of fans of Manhattan, Crimes and Misdemeanors, and others. But Zelig is Woody Allen at his goofiest (with Bananas a close second). If you’re a comedy fan and you’ve never seen a Woody Allen flick, start here. Trust me.
Pulp Fiction: Groundbreaking for its time, full of killer performances, memorable lines (“Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.” “That IS a tasty burger.” I could go on and on…) and the UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs T-shirt that I owned before Travolta did, dammit. Tarantino’s still the man.
Goodfellas: Plenty of people would have this one in their Top 20, maybe even Top 10. You could argue that it’s nearly impossible to rank the Godfather movies (well, the first two) near the top, yet slot Goodfellas multiple slots lower. But I see the distinction this way: I’m not a fan of Mafia movies per se. Just good movies. So while I’m still a big Goodfellas fan, this flick’s on shine box duty compared to Coppola’s masterpieces.
The Shawshank Redemption: “I find I’m so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
Touch of Evil: Charlton Heston plays a Mexican. Your witness.
The Third Man: Back-to-back all-timers from Orson Welles. This one had extra meaning to me, as I watched this chilling tale of life and intrigue in post-war Vienna right before going to visit. I’ve since found that both watching this movie and purchasing Demel chocolates causes me to grin like a giant idiot.
Fight Club: I’m a sucker for any movie with a twist, and few people do twists better than David Fincher. I rank my favorite Fincher movies twists as follows:
…but I’d rank my favorite Fincher acting performances as follows:
Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden, Ed Norton as The Narrator and Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer are all transcendent. Even Mr. Loaf delivers a memorable performance.
The Game: …and yet, in a stunning upset, The Game is actually my favorite of the Fincher movies. It’s hard to explain why exactly. Maybe it’s because it was the first one I watched (despite it coming out two years after Se7en), thus making it my entree into Fincher’s modern take on film noir (my favorite genre, more on that in a minute). Or maybe it’s because I was relieved to see a Michael Douglas movie in which he didn’t flash his butt on the big screen.
The Big Clock: One of the two most obscure movies on my list…though not if you’re a sucker for old movies with a dark edge. Charles Laughton kicks ass and takes names in this one, alongside screen legend Ray Milland. Bonus points for having seen this one at a film noir festival at The Egyptian theater in Hollywood, one of the coolest venues I’ve ever witnessed. If you can figure out a way to see this on a big screen (or at least a monster plasma with kickin’ sound system, in the dark, with popcorn), do it. Now.
The Salton Sea: The co-leader for most obscure name on this list, the landscape of this 2002 sleeper was so fascinating that it triggered one of my patented afternoon-crushing Wikipedia jags. The film pits two of my favorite actors of all-time, Val Kilmer and Vincent D’Onofrio, against each other in a tale of meth culture, wolverines and ummm…unique facial features. The sea itself has its own amazing story to tell.
In a separate matter, I’m going to throw this out there: Val Kilmer may be the most underrated actor in Hollywood. Top Secret (comedy gold), Top Gun (Iceman, come on!), The Doors (perfect Jim Morrison), The Salton Sea (inspired methheadery) and many more. OK, possible man crush here.
Best in Show: My favorite of the Chris Guest ensemble flicks. Did you know that I might like and know more about dogs than I do baseball and the stock market put together? It’s true. I actually get bummed when I can’t identify the breeds of random strangers’ dogs, even when they’re mixed breeds. So as you can imagine, a movie that takes my genuine love of dogs and watching dog shows and manages to be hilarious about it is going to be a winner for me.
Easy Rider: I’m sure I would have been more affected by this one if I was 18 years old when it came out, and not minus-5. Still greatly enjoyed it, though. If you’ve only seen Dennis Hopper as creepy guy from Speed or quirky guy from the Nike commercials, you need to see Easy Rider. Actually come to think of it, the Nike commercials were pretty great too.
The Manchurian Candidate: The remake wasn’t bad, but the 1962 original starring Frank Sinatra is on just about any reputable top U.S. movies list. It sticks with you after you’re done watching it. Actually that’s a common trait of most of these films. You won’t soon forget ’em.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: The Indian chief’s water fountain escape has been parodied almost as many times as Dustin Hoffman’s dash to the church in The Graduate. You’ve probably heard the term “Nurse Ratched” describe some tough-as-nails health care giver at one point or another. And you’ve likely seen riled-up Nicholson and crazy Nicholson in other flicks. All of which is to say, you may think you have a good grasp of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, even if you’ve never actually seen it.
You should still see it. It’s fantastic.
Election: If Legally Blonde and some of her other cute but underwhelming movies make you wonder why Reese Witherspoon clears $15 mil per flick, watch her performance as the loathable Tracy Flick. I feel entirely comfortable slotting this movie ahead of The Wizard of Oz, Citizen Kane, and any number of other classics. Kills me every time.
The Big Lebowski: If for some deranged reason you haven’t seen the best of the Coen Brothers’ off-the-charts catalog, mix a White Russian and enjoy. Just don’t roll on Shabbos. Seriously. Not cool.