You Don't Even Own a Camera


#50: The Heartbreak Kid (Elaine May, 1972) The Maddening Objectification of an Impossibly Perfect Blonde for Mary, a Carpenters cover for Steven, Neil Simon for everybody. Donít lose heart--weíve only just begun. (Maybe Elaine May behind the camera is enough to get me a pass on the first transgression.) The Heartbreak Kid played constantly on TV when I was a teenager--I must have seen it at least 10 times before I headed off to university. Itís a surprisingly key film from a time in my life when some of my basic attitudes about movies began to take shape: feelings about how music should be used, a certain kind of mood I gravitated towards (whatever the filmic equivalent of Sunshine Pop is, thatís the mood I responded most deeply to as a 15-year-old), and a central character who stood just enough in opposition to ďconventional societyĒ (whatever that meant to me at the time) that he met with my approval. I know, I know--Charles Grodin makes for a very poor Che Guevara. But the way he bamboozled those fur-loving football players (second clip below) was more than enough for me. Kael liked it a lot, Kauffmann and Simon, not so much. (Double-checking, Iím surprised to find out that Simon praised the performances--I figured heíd be especially merciless.) Especially in the lower reaches of my list, Iíll have a few picks that no oneís going to mistake for art. Like Jeff says, Iím going to try as much as possible to go with those films that made a lasting impression on me for one reason or another, allowing the necessary room for more recent favourites where there hasnít been enough time for lasting impressions. The Heartbreak Kid clears that bar with room to spare. And I havenít even dwelled on the Impossibly Perfect Blonde, the Maddening Objectification of whom is played off against the (almost cruel at times) reduction to caricature of Jeannie Berlin. It worked on me. I still hang around oceanside beaches, waiting to hear a disembodied ďThatís my spotĒ whispered from up above one day. #49: The Sugarland Express (Steven Spielberg, 1974) Iím again making my picks as I go along, working from a loose master list of about 75 films. I decided on The Sugarland Express Thursday night, before Jeff posted his Close Encounters entry. Thought about switching to something else, but the serendipity must mean something, so Iíll go ahead as planned. There are a few Spielberg films where you can legitimately ask, ďI wonder how many people have actually seen this?Ē--Empire of the Sun, Always, the airport movie--but Iím willing to bet that The Sugarland Express is still his most underseen great film. If it werenít for Jaws (which Iíll probably bypass; the fatigue factor discussed in the music countdown is still operable), Iíd say itís his greatest film by any yardstick. I know thatís hard to accept if you think his pinnacle was Schindlerís List or Saving Private Ryan, and itís probably just as baffling to anyone who gives that designation to E.T. or Close Encounters. With Jaws and The Sugarland Express, I feel like Iím watching the work of a runaway talent whoís still completely immersed in the telling of great stories, without any of the stuff that will creep into Spielbergís more ambitious films. I donít want to start knocking what comes later--I like Close Encounters a lot, and I understand why the other three benchmarks Iíve mentioned are famous--but Iím just not as interested in the box-office behemoths (Jaws made a ton of money, but it wasnít a preordained event like Spielbergís other biggest money-makers), in watching Spielberg work through his various father issues, or especially in Spielberg the Award-Winning Artist. None of that is even on the horizon in The Sugarland Express (well, thereís maybe a trace of the father issues): itís just stunning camerawork from Vilmos Zsigmond, Goldie Hawnís best performance ever, a key work in a lineage of New Hollywood outlaw films that runs through Bonnie and Clyde, Easy Rider, Thieves Like Us, and Dog Day Afternoon (among others), and a 28-year-old prodigy unleashed. And music, of course--Iíll be guilty throughout this list of giving disproportionate weight to music in arriving at my picks. John Williams does the score, but itís Toots Thielmansí evocative little harmonica bits that convey the filmís mood best (and capture how much feeling Spielberg has for the four principals, all of whom inhabit worlds far removed from his own). My favourite moment, and probably one of my favourite shots in any film: when the screen splits in half horizontally as Thielmans theme plays at the 35:40 mark, and Hawn and Ben Johnson make eye contact in the front mirror and smile back at each other. #48. Nixon (Oliver Stone, 1995) I was considering Wall Street, an overheated junk bond Iíve seen more times than I care to admit (powered in part by a drug called Charlie Sheen!), but it occurred to me just two nights ago that Nixonís the one--I absolutely have to have Nixon on my list. Iíll start where Steven left off with Sid and Nancy: I wouldnít go into this preoccupied with what you know about Nixon. Getting your head around Anthony Hopkinsí off-putting interpretation is the first and biggest leap you have to make. Heís not trying for precise mimicry at all--Dan Ackroyd, Rich Little, etc.--nor is he seizing on one aspect of Nixonís personality and running wild with it, the way Philip Baker Hall takes Nixonís paranoia and elevates it to the nth degree of delirium in Secret Honor (a more acclaimed Nixon film I donít like nearly as much). Itís more like Hopkins spends the whole film tentatively trying to feel his way into the character, always a half-beat off, never quite sure which Nixon heís supposed to be at any given moment. Which is, of course, perfect; Nixon himself spent the entirety of his public career groping around for some semblance of an authentic self, and he seemed no less awkward or embarrassed inside his own skin than Hopkins does. Itís a weird, heavy (literally; Hopkins is always lurching around with his shoulders slumped), but ultimately affecting performance. Factually--well, itís Oliver Stone. As with JFK, he conflates, reshuffles, and creates ďcounter- mythsĒ (a favourite Stone word) whenever it suits his purposes to do so. There are probably a thou- sand little fibs scattered throughout Nixon, and, to me, it wouldnít be very interesting to start cataloguing them. Hereís one big one: the idea that RFKís assassination was the trigger that led Nixon to seek the presidency in í68. If youíre at all familiar with the actual timeline, thatís laughable; Nixon had decided as early as the impending Goldwater debacle in í64 that heíd be the guy to pick up the pieces, and I wouldnít even doubt that he started thinking about running within five minutes of finishing his infamous concession speech in í62. Thatís a more serious transgression, because it misrepresents something fundamental about Nixonís character. Even that doesnít matter, though. Stone gets the story right in broad outline, and he also gets at something much harder to pin down. Hereís how Greil Marcus describes the experience of watching the film in an essay on J.T. Walsh included in O.K. You Mugs (Walsh plays Ehrlichman): ďOne night, though, flipping channels after the late news had closed down, I happened onto Nixon running on HBO, and I didnít turn it off. I was pulled in, played like a fish through all the fictions and flash- backs, dreaming the movieís dream: waiting for Watergate.Ē ďDreaming the movieís dreamĒ--I love that line. Thereís something very sad and very majestic about Nixon (a nod to John Williamsí score on that front), and even if you despise Nixon as much as most people whoíll take the time to seek out the film almost certainly do, I think you end up feeling the weight of the man and the full scope of his centrality to post-war America; like Neil Youngís ďCampaigner,Ē it takes you to a place where you can say, ďOkay--there was a life there.Ē Everything ends, as it should, with footage of Clintonís eulogy in 1994. Itís a movie I expect Iíll be revisiting once every year or two for the rest of my life. #47: Hud (Martin Ritt, 1963) This coming Monday, Iím going to see Richard Corliss introduce Lolita. (He was a last-minute re- placement for David Thomson.) I havenít read Corliss in years, but the one thing I remember about him is that, sometime in the early Ď80s, he tried to counter Sarrisís book with a theory that screenwriters were at least the equal of directors as Hollywoodís truest auteurs. I donít necessarily subscribe to that--I havenít really thought about the issue enough to have any kind of an informed opinion--but Hud is an excellent test case for how you apportion a filmís authorship. Who should get the most credit here: director Martin Ritt? Larry McMurtry, who wrote the novel (though not the screenplay, which belongs to Irving Ravetch and Harriet Frank, Jr.)? Cinematographer James Wong Howe? (He also shot Sweet Smell of Success.) Most people who love Hud probably donít think of any of those names; itís Paul Newmanís film from start to finish. Newmanís great, and clearly having great fun playing, depending upon how you view him, a cruelly pragmatic realist/unmitigated piece of slime, but he shouldnít even get credit for the best performance; Patricia Neal gives what might be my favourite female performance in any film. I couldnít find a good short clip of her, so hereís ďPart 10Ē in its entirety. Watch her starting at the 7:00 minute mark, one of the greatest leaviní scenes I can think of. ďFar as I can get on a bus ticket...Ē--perfect. (For what itís worth, I think Melvyn Douglas and Brandon de Wilde are fine too. They get knocked for various reasons, and Iíll concede that old Homerís self-righteousness is a bit much at times, but they have a number of great moments between them.) Surprisingly (to me, anyway), Hud doesnít have much critical cachet--I donít know that Iíve ever seen it draw a single vote in the annual Sight and Sound greatest-ever polls. Sarrisís American Cinema has had a lasting influence on me, and even though Iím a much bigger Kael fan, itís a book that did a lot of good. But also some harm, and Iíll lay Hudís neglect at Sarrisís feet. Because Ritt was written out (Ritten out?) of the auteurist hierarchy, Hud got pushed aside too. I mean, itís still famous, on account of Newman and OíNeal, but I donít think it gets nearly enough crit- ical attention for how great a film it is overall. For every word ever written about Hud, I bet thereíve been 1,000 words spilled on 1963ís big auteur favourite, The Birds. And I think thatís wildly off the mark. #46. Il Posto (Ermanno Olmi, 1961) If nothing else, this one gets in on the Neil Young Rule: ďI fell in love with the actress/She was playing a part that I could understand.Ē The stuff about playing a part that you can under- stand isnít even all that important. My list will be woefully short on non-English language films. Iím guessing two or three; another 10 would be in my second tier of favourites--a Top 150, maybe--but there just arenít that many that have ever hit me with the force that my American favourites from the Ď60s and Ď70s did. The number of silent films on my list will be even more pathetic: zero. For a guy with a film degree, I make a very poor cinephile. Iíve seen Il Posto three times now--most recently a week ago, when I rented it out, which is why I want to comment on it while itís still fresh in my mind--and Iím confident that it belongs here. Steven gave it a very middling write-up in his weekly round-up a few months ago, and while I canít say I sharply disagree with anything he said, I love some of the very same things that left him cold. He wrote that the story never really goes anywhere; it may in fact be somewhat generous to credit Il Posto with a story at all. (Plot summary, more or less: teenage boy applies for an office job, hangs around for a few hours with another girl who has applied, both are hired, boy goes to company Christmas party, girl doesnít show, next day at work, the end.) Sometimes I respond to such minimal narratives, sometimes Iím bored silly--Il Posto is one where I respond. Steven mentioned Sandro Panseriís ďbig dark eyes,Ē and said they hint at something deeper than the otherwise blank expression he wears throughout the film; for me, the combination is richly expressive--of uncer- tainty, of loneliness, maybe even of a deep sadness, although there doesnít seem to be any particu- lar reason heíd be so sad at such a young age. Steven also made note of how the ending suggests ďa lifetime of alienation,Ē but didnít seem particularly convinced that the film went any deeper than the suggestion. I think Il Postoís final shot sets up the life-of-quiet-desperation thing as com- pletely and as depressingly as any movie I know. (The film appeared around the same time as Billy Wilderís The Apartment, and both seem to come out of the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit anxiety of the mid-Ď50s.) Iíve used Stevenís write-up to set my own--see Il Posto, and you may well find yourself just as indifferent and unmoved as he was. Steven didnít mention Loredana Detto, the girl who catches Pan- seriís eye as he waits to be interviewed. They go for coffee afterwards in the clip below (sorry, no subtitles). I didnít know she was also Olmiís wife until I went looking for some information about her. Sheís part of my own life now, having replaced Nico in The Chelsea Girls as my new screen-saver. #45: Smoke (Wayne Wang, 1995) Just like it did with the music countdown, what Iím able to find on YouTube will occasionally tip the scales as to what sneaks onto my list, especially early on. If I can find exactly the one scene that Iíd most want to share from a film, thatís a big plus. In the clip below, cigar store proprietor Harvey Keitel discusses his ďlifeís workĒ with widowed writer William Hurt. Keitel refers to his hobby as a ďprojectĒ--those who followed the music count- down will know that that word has special resonance for me. Hurt is perplexed at first--a bit of a stretch, actually; as a successful writer, I would have thought heíd intuitively understand the sub- tleties of Keitelís project--then amused, and then, in a turn that caught me completely by surprise the first time, shattered. Itís an amazing scene, one that encapsulates the mood and small perfec- tions of Wang Wangís underseen film. One thing that has always bothered me is the idea that seriousness, high purpose, and artistic value are automatically conferred on a film via subtitles. This was common back in university, and Iíve also encountered it in critics and in friends. Itís a point Iíve lightened up on over the years--I used to be much more judgemental (and much more blinkered) than I am now. Smoke is an art film in the very best sense of what that might mean, with the qualities and the pacing that are associated with the best of Truffaut, Rohmer, or Ozu. (As opposed to the very worst sense; thereís no shortage of arty American films.) Iím sure that has something to do with Wang having been born in China, and not having come to America until he was 17, but the why of it is a separate issue. The fact is, Smoke came and went with not a lot of fanfare. And I wonder if it would have been more written about, and more remembered today, if it had come from France or Taiwan. Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Abbas Kiarostami, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul (to name three examples out of many) are staples at Torontoís Cinematheque, and thatís great, Iím grateful that I can see their films. Smoke has played there maybe once in 15 years, if that. Gregory Peckís Atticus Finch once won an AFI poll for the most heroic character in any American film. Keitelís Auggie Wren would be my nomination for the most heroic character of the past however-many years. He does two different things in Smoke--or rather, he does one thing and doesnít do something else--that I find tremendously moving. I just love the guy. #44: Heart Like a Wheel (Jonathan Kaplan, 1983) Although a reasonably high-profile film the year of its release--Bonnie Bedelia got a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal of race-car driver Shirley Muldowney, and she should have been up for an Academy Award, too--itís since slipped into obscurity. Like The Heartbreak Kid, all the DVD copies on Amazon are ridiculously overpriced ($60+ for the ďSpecial NHRA EditionĒ), which presumably means itís out of print, and finding a decent YouTube clip wasnít easy. Iíve got a VHS copy, which is appropriate--it feels like a VHS movie. Surprisingly few films have the ability to make me tear up, but Heart Like a Wheel does that to me every time, and not just once. First thereís the scene where Shirleyís ex-husband calls her out of the blue for the first time in years, and I again turn to mush when Shirley throws herself into the arms of her arch-nemesis Connie Kelita after winning the filmís climactic race (bizarrely preempted in the YouTube clip). If thereís a hypothetical midpoint somewhere between Roger Cormanís Eat My Dust and one of those small Czechoslovakian art films from the mid-Ď60s, thatís where Heart Like a Wheel exists. (By the way, I havenít seen either Eat My Dust or any of those small Czechoslovakian art films--like I say, hypothetical.) Iíve written about Heart Like a Wheelís use of pop music before. The title song doesnít appear any- where in the film, but you get the Flamingosí ďI Only Have Eyes for You,Ē ďTurn, Turn, Turn,Ē ďHappy Together,Ē and two or three other period songs. The way Kaplan uses ďHappy TogetherĒ is right up there with my favourite Scorsese, P.T. Anderson, and Tarantino sequences. I also love how Beau Brid- gesí performance as Kalita is the mirror image of his excellent performance in The Fabulous Baker Boys. There, he was the stodgy family man; here, he gets to step in for his brother Jeff and play the womanizing cad. I canít say enough good things about him, Bedelia, Leo Rossi, or Hoyt Axton. Heart Like a Wheel did get one Academy Award nomination, for costume design. I havenít a clue why-- racing gear to me looks like leftover spacesuits from the Plan 9 shoot. #43: Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975) I indicated to Steven and Jeff early on that I was surprised by one of the films I was considering. This is it. Two years ago, I wouldnít have been able to conceive of Barry Lyndon being on a list of my favourites; ten years ago, I still hadnít even seen it. I want to get it on here early, otherwise Iíll wait too long and talk myself out of it. Just before Eyes Wide Shut came out, I wrote a round-up of Kubrickís films for Andrew Palmer, an editor I knew in New Zealand. I mentioned in the piece that Barry Lyndon was one of three Kubrick films Iíd never seen, and that I was holding out on Barry until it turned up somewhere in Toronto on a big screen. (I'm down to just one: Fear and Desire.) A few more years passed before that finally happened, and on first viewing, I donít think I quite knew what to make of it. The first thing that threw me (and simultaneously fascinated me) is what Iíll call the John Wesley Harding disconnect, named in honour of the album where Dylan seemed to be operating in some universe parallel to the one where the Vietnam war, assassinations, rioting, and various other kind of madness were dominating the news of the day. Barry Lyndon similarly appeared on the heels of Watergate, Nixonís resignation, Patty Hearst, gas shortages, etc., surrounded on all sides by the likes of Chinatown, Godfather II, Nashville, Dog Day Afternoon, Shampoo, Smile, Night Moves, Welfare, Taxi Driver, and other like- minded ruminations on Americaís decade-long decline and fall. Kubrickís response to the crumbling landscape? A stately, baroque costume drama about upward mobility and social humiliation in 19th- century England. Of course, as Jon Landau famously wrote about JWH, to disengage so completely becomes a statement unto itself. (Thatís not really what he wrote...Iím paraphrasing liberally.) Take away Barry Lyndonís soundtrack, and it wouldnít be here. The accompanying clip is a perfect example. What gets said is so minimal, and of such little consequence, that Iím able to use a clip thatís been dubbed into another language. All that matters is the Schubert piece on the soundtrack, the dreamy languor, Marisa Berensonís beauty, and the texture of the light (a celebrated advance in technology whereby Kubrick was able to shoot scenes by candlelight). Elsewhere, thereís Bach, Vival- di, Handel, and some beautiful interludes from the Chieftains. Stuff happens in Barry Lyndon, and some of it is very moving--the death of Barryís youngest son, Barryís sad reduction to a pitiable cipher by filmís end--but for me, itís ultimately the music that holds everything together and (Iíve seen it three times now) stays with me for days afterwards. That, and the filmís epilogue, a single title card: ďIt was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personages lived and quarrelled; good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now.Ē #42: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978) By 1978, I think itís fair to say that American movies were coming out the other side of a legend- ary period that started around í71 or í72 and culminated in í76. 1978 was the first post-Star War year, and the blockbuster business model that is still in place today really started to take hold. Hollywood must have made some ungodly amount of money that year: Close Encounters (listed by Jeff earlier), Saturday Night Fever and Grease, Superman, Animal House...Thatís a lot of box-office--I checked, and even the yearís two big Vietnam films, Coming Home and The Deer Hunter (with a third on its way), are listed among 1978ís 20 biggest money-makers. I love a couple of those films, and like all of them to one degree or another. Itís not that there werenít still really good films being made. There just werenít as many of them as there were three or four years earlier, and something tangible had changed. What does all that have to do with Invasion of the Body Snatchers? I donít know--I needed an intro! I suppose Invasion has a foot on both sides of the divide. It has the feel of one of those pantheon Altman films that turned genre on its head and definitively captured that early-Ď70s era--it is to science-fiction what The Long Goodbye was to the classic detective film--but I also suspect the studio had hopes that it would take off commercially in a big way. It did pretty well ($25M, still a lot in í78). I think it was maybe ultimately just a little too flaky to do any better. We were playing Invasion at the Georgetown Theatre the year I worked there as an usher in grade 13. Iíd watch it over and over, and for a time I could rhyme off long sections of dialogue whole. Itís a film that works on at least three different distinct levels. Needless to say, itís really scary. The first clip below is the famous ending. Do with it what you will; if youíve managed to live this long without having seen Invasion, obviously my advice is to skip that clip. Itís also a great romance, as witness the second clip, the scene that made many of us fall in love with Brooke Adams. And while I wonít try to argue that Kaufmanís remake has the political immediacy of the 1956 ori- ginal, an ingenious re-imagining of McCarthyism, there is subtext. I think Kael (who rhapsodized about the film) wrote that Leonard Nimoyís Dr. Kibner was a spoof of all those Ď70s self-help gurus who invented programs like EST, and that in general Kaufman was having fun with right-wing Americaís worst fears about San Francisco. Sounds reasonable to me--maybe Steven can chime in on that. The five principal performers--yes, including Nimoy--are excellent. Jeff Goldblum does Goldblum schtick before it had become schtick; I like him here just as much as I do in The Fly. Donald Sutherlandís sleepy-eyed perfect (again, think of Gould in The Long Goodbye), and you wonder why Veronica Cartwright didnít go on to win a shelfís worth of Academy Awards. Best cameo ever: Kevin McCarthy, star of the original, still madly running around 22 years later trying to alert the world to impending doom. And keep an eye out for Robert Duvall and Don Siegel, too. #41: The Straight Story (David Lynch, 1999) If it werenít for three films--well, two films and a TV project--the career of David Lynch would be pretty much without interest for me. Mulholland Dr. and Inland Empire are my two personal bete noires, and I jump on the message board every chance I get to assail them with derision. The former was so universally acclaimed, and topped so many decade-end polls, Iím willing to grant that thereís something there Iím just not getting; God himself could declare Inland Empire a work of genius, and Iíd still roll my eyes. Most everything else Lynch has done goes right past me, Eraserhead included. Iíll give a pass to The Elephant Man--I know Scott loves that one, and I probably need to watch it a second time. So what do I like? On one hand, the two most obvious candidates--Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks--and on the other, the least obvious, which would be this. I canít think of a more anomalous movie in any- oneís filmography than The Straight Story within Lynchís. Itís not just a departure, the way some- thing like The Age of Innocence was for Scorsese; on closer inspection, such departures often turn out to be a directorís signature film in disguise, with the same themes and the same stylistic flourishes. And maybe someone else could make the same case for The Straight Story. I couldnít--I find it as disconnected from Blue Velvet as Neil Youngís Trans was from Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. (But a disconnect in the right direction with Lynch.) The Straight Story is surely one of the best films ever made about getting old, deserving of a privileged place alongside Wild Strawberries, Tokyo Story, The Leopard, and a few others that always get listed at the front of that line. Among brother films, itís up there with On the Water- front and Raging Bull. Itís one of my favourite road movies ever; here, the road goes by very, very slowly. Itís a work of such subtlety and such feeling, and so completely* free of all the stream-of-consciousness weirdness that marks Lynchís career--a weirdness that is sometimes stun- ning, but more often forced and juvenile--that Iím not at all surprised it seems to be little more than a footnote among Lynchís cult. On one of the threads devoted to him on the message board, a couple of people list their Lynch Top 10s: one puts The Straight Story 7th, the other has it 9th. (A few posters do praise it.) My default Lynch putdown is an ominous voiceover on a trailer announcing, ďComing soon, from the mind of David Lynch...Ē You wouldnít find that voiceover on any trailer for The Straight Story. This was Richard Farnsworthís last film; he died a little less than a year after its release. Iíve been meaning to see The Grey Fox for years, but just havenít gotten around to it. Ending your career with The Straight Story is like Sandy Koufax in 1966, or the Velvet Underground with Loaded. As for the plot...Farnsworth plays a guy who travels across four or five states on a tractor to visit his estranged brother. It takes a while, and things happen along the way. *(Not completely true: thereís a roadside scene with a distraught woman that feels like it was parachuted in from some other Lynch film--for me, the movieís only misstep.) #40: The China Syndrome (James Bridges, 1979) The day the world turned day-glo. (Almost.) There was a film a few years ago that had the good fortune to get its release just before a big news story broke directly related to what the movie was about. Maybe somebody knows which film I mean--for some reason, Iím blanking out. Anyway, I remember thinking at the time that it was the luckiest film since The China Syndrome, the most famous example of such serendipitous timing. And The China Syndromeís serendipity score was off the chart: it was released on March 16, 1979, and 12 days later Three Mile Island started leaking nuclear reactant coolant. Looking at the Wikipedia page for Three Mile Island, the parallels between movie and real-life event are even more astound- ing than I realized: The mechanical failures were compounded by the initial failure of plant operators to recognize the situation as a loss-of-coolant accident...in particular, a hidden indicator light led to an operator manually overriding the automatic emergency cooling system of the reactor because the operator mis- takenly believed that there was too much coolant water present in the reactor and causing the steam pressure release. Exactly like in the fictional version: a little red needle on a valve meter gets stuck, and every- body does the precise opposite of what they should be doing. The Ď70s was a great decade for movie paranoia: Jeff had Marathon Man earlier, and this is the first of three or four films Iíll be listing that mine similar territory. J. Hobermanís The Dream Life documents this era very well, stretching from The Manchurian Candidate in í62 to De Palmaís Blow Out 20 years later. The China Syndrome is not usually cited at the forefront of the genre--I think something of a gimmicky reputation has attached to it because of its backstory--but it was reviewed very well in its day, and I get as caught up in it as ever when I revisit it every couple of years. Thoughts on the two lead performances...Kael, a big fan of Jane Fondaís work in Klute, hated the way she was softened and dumbed-down for both this and Coming Home. I can understand that; I remem- ber having the same problem with Sam Jackson in Changing Lanes, insofar as Iím not eager to watch Jackson in anything where heís not saying ďmotherfuckerĒ every fifth word. (Ditto Joe Pesci.) But if you can get past that, and accept Fondaís character on its own terms, I think sheís great. As for Jack Lemmon, Iíve come to believe that he created the template for Nicholson, De Niro, Pacino, Hoffman, etc.: early brilliance giving way to an inventory of tics and mannerisms that often make him unwatchable in later years. But every now and again, youíd get a reminder of what an amazing actor he could be. Iíd put forth The China Syndrome as one of those reminders, although I can see where someone else might see the same old tics and mannerisms. Kevin Spacey addresses all of that in the second clip below; the first is just about the most exciting eight minutes in any thriller I can think of. Incidentally, yesterday was the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl. #39: North Dallas Forty (Ted Kotcheff, 1979) Iím sticking with the musicals. This one has some music--Chicís ďGood Times,Ē to be precise. A baseball fan for as long as I can remember, I dislike baseball films almost without exception; football I havenít paid attention to since the days of Roger Staubach and Lynn Swann, but my favour- ite sports film is about football. (Favourite non-documentary sports film, anyway--and that may even be true if you count Raging Bull as a sports movie.) North Dallas Forty came out the summer after I finished high school, a point in my life where my feelings about sports--playing sports, as opposed to fandom--were at their most jaundiced ever. All thanks to my high school basketball coach there. So the timing was perfect: Kotcheffís film (I havenít read Peter Gentís novel) gave voice to those feelings almost as witheringly as Jim Boutonís Ball Four, which I had discovered a year or two earlier, and watching Nick Nolte and Mac Davis flash ďCan you believe this nonsense?Ē looks at each other during team meetings was pretty much the story of my high school basketball career, such as it was. The accompanying clip is a mish-mash of various scenes from the film, some of them key. I love John Matuszak going off on Charles Durningís weasly assistant coach at the 4:00 mark: ďEvery time I call it a game, you call it a business, and every time I call it a business, you call it a game.Ē Most of the final scene is included, where Nolte gets hauled before management on a trumped-up charge meant to corner him into quitting. Which he does, after delivering the filmís key line: ďWeíre not the team--theyíre [motions towards management] the team.Ē A lot of North Dallas Forty makes more sense in the context of a pre-free agency world, when management still held the upper hand and pro- fessional athletes were basically cattle to be bought and sold on a whim. Baseball was a few years into that system being overturned by 1979; Iím not sure, but I think football was slower to change. In the world of LeBron James and Alex Rodriguez, Matuszakís speech and Nolteís righteous outrage seem quaint. But Iím enough of a fan to believe that thereís still fundamental truth in some of what they say. Nolte, Davis, G.D. Spradlin, Dabney Coleman, a bunch of people in smaller roles, theyíre all ter- rific. Spradlin especially interests me: between this, Senator Geary in Godfather II, and his spooky military guy in Apocalypse Now, I count him as one of the decadeís great forgotten support- ing players. Iím not putting forth North Dallas Forty as film art. Visually, itís nothing to look it--itís probably interchangeable with Firepower, Force 10 from Navarone, and all the other crummy late-Ď70s fare that played at my theatre--and thereís one terrible performance from Dayle Haddon. But itís a movie that appeared as manna to me in 1979--I felt like I too had just finished putting away childish things--and I love it to this day. #38: Casualties of War (Brian De Palma, 1989) One war film only. I considered Paths of Glory, but one Kubrick is enough. The Deer Hunter and Apocalypse Now (and, to a lesser extent, Coming Home) had a huge impact on me as a teenager, but, not surprisingly, that has waned over time. I still think The Deer Hunter has remarkable passages, and also some juvenile sentiment that dates badly; Coming Home has problems too, balanced by some very moving scenes. (I recently called it the opposite of Joe Rudi: Rudi was an overrated underrated baseball player, Coming Homeís an underrated overrated film.) Apocalypse Now...is famous. So: Casualties of War. The last few years of Kaelís tenure, I donít think I was on the same page as her. She seemed to gravitate to stuff like Scrooge, Club Paradise, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, films I wasnít even remotely interested in, while Stranger Than Paradise, sex, lies & videotape, Millerís Crossing, and others were either bypassed or, at best, accorded qualified, disinterested praise. It felt at times as if the more a film aspired to, the more seriously it took itself, the less chance it had with her. Thatís a simplification, of course, and itís also a tendency that had been part of her writing forever. I just felt like it became magnified towards the end. But with Casualties of War, she nailed it. I donít know if it was her last epic review in the style of her reviews for Last Tango and Nashville--Enemies: A Love Story was in there too, and Iím too lazy to check which came first right now--but itís the one that I prefer to think of as her equivalent of Ted Williamsí final home run. Casualties got lost in the late-Ď80s spate of Vietnam films--Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, Born on the Fourth of July, Good Morning Vietnam, two or three others--and in 1989, it probably didnít get 10% of the attention that Do the Right Thing did (which I like fine). Kael is the only critic I remember who was alert to how masterful it was, and she took that and ran with it like it was 1975. The few war films I like tend to have relatively few combat sequences--not sequences in the field, but actual combat--and thatís true of Casualties. The scene Iíve linked to is representative of much of the movie: one prolonged game of mental chicken between Sean Pennís Sgt. Meserve and Michael J. Foxís Private Eriksson, triggered by the abduction and then gang-rape of a Vietnamese peasant girl. A story Iíve told before: there was a local critic (now a very prominent higher-up in the Toronto Film Festival) who dismissed Casualties at the time by saying it was another De Palma ďkill the bitchĒ film. Twenty years later, I still count that as the single stupidest line of film criticism Iíve ever read. (Sorry--I considered ďmost irresponsible,Ē but ďstupidestĒ is a better fit.) De Palmaís treatment of the girl is humane and shattering beyond words. There are a couple of missteps, especially a scene where Fox needlessly and clumsily starts musing aloud about stuff we can figure out for ourselves (his ďmaybe it matters moreĒ monologue). And Penn gives a highly stylized performance that you may recoil from--the clip will be a good test of that. Otherwise, pretty close to perfection Iíd say. Last word to Kael: ď(Some movies) have more imagination, more poetry, more intensity than the usual fare; they have large themes, and a vision. They can leave us feeling simultaneously elated and wiped out...Casual- ties of War has this kind of purity.Ē No, last word to me. 1) Her Enemies review appeared a few months later; 2) I may have two more De Palma films on my list--not sure yet; 3) great soundtrack, a tiny bit of which appears at the end of the clip. #37: Lost in America (Albert Brooks, 1985) This is a very strange thing for a movie fan to admit: I almost never go to see comedies anymore. Maybe one every couple of years. I saw Wedding Crashers, and I donít quite remember why--Iím think- ing I must have seen it with somebody else who wanted to see it more than I did. (It may have even been the last film I ever saw with my mom.) Iíll very occasionally watch one at home that I found in a sale bin, like Anchorman or Observe and Report. Those exceptions noted, the entire Judd Apatow/Will Ferrell/Zach Galifianakis/Seth Rogen era has passed me by. I laugh all the time at the movies, of course, but the comedy is integrated into films that arenít conceived or marketed as ďcomediesĒ; Lost in Translation would be an obvious example among many. And in real life (irl on the message board, acronym #37 that makes me roll my eyes--did you really save all that much time?), I joke around too much. Sometimes I donít know where to draw the line. (Hi, Jenn!) Lost in America may join The Heartbreak Kid as the only comedy on my list. Again, itís a blurry line; thereís lots that makes me laugh all through my list, but there arenít really any comedies. Lost in America may not even qualify--clearly, Albert Brooks has much more in mind than just making you laugh, although its connection to a specific historical moment that has faded from view, the advent of yuppiedom, may undermine its larger themes. In any event, there are scenes in Lost in America-- the nest egg speech, the crossing-guard interview (see clip), Brooks grovelling to Gary Marshallís casino owner (ďThe Desert Inn has heart! The Desert Inn has heart!Ē) that bring me to tears I laugh so hard. Sometimes itís just a random line, like when Julie Hagerty (who might be the best reason to see the film) asks Brooks why heís treating her like a dog: ďIíll tell you later.Ē I canít imagine that losing the context of yuppiedom would make any of that less funny to someone seeing the film for the first time. Lost in America was Brooksí third film as a director: the first two attracted a fair amount of attention, and at the time, Iíd say he seemed almost as important as Woody Allen. He never quite followed through, though. I thought Defending Your Life was pretty good, especially Meryl Streepís performance, but I didnít like Mother, and the two after that were very slight. He hasnít made a film since 2005; he seems to do very well in other peopleís films. Heíll be on my list two more times. #36: The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960) Again: is this a comedy? I donít know. I love it, Iíve seen it numerous times, and I hardly laugh at all. Itís a great romance, and it has something of an epic feel to it--indeed, at 125 minutes, it has a running time more associated with weighty historical dramas. Itís right there with Roman Holiday and Breakfast at Tiffanyís as my favourite romance. (Casablanca, not even close.) I think Iíll only have room for one of them, though, so this is it. Just like Lost in America, The Apartment satirizes a breed of corporate climber associated with a specific moment in time. I mentioned that moment in my Il Posto comment earlier--Wilderís film is the American flipside of Olmiís, with existential despair giving way to American ingenuity at its crassest. The Il Posto kid confronts the soul-crushing machinery of corporations by staring soulful- ly into the void; Jack Lemmon instead sees opportunity and gets busy--until, in time, he ends up somewhere closer to the Il Posto kid. The two films would make a great pairing, double-bill-wise. This is the rare case where I think Academy Award voters were ahead of critics. The critical stand- ing of The Apartment has risen significantly over the years: it presently sits at #58 on the They Shoot Pictures, Donít They? list, still below Psycho (#32) but a lot closer today than it would have been 25 years ago. Said voters were out to lunch when it came to Psycho, mind you, which I bet didnít even come close to a best-picture nomination. If that seems confusing...while the critics of the day obviously did like The Apartment (I just checked, and it was also named best film by the New York Film Critics Circle), I still think it was a surprisingly great and forward-looking Best Picture choice. I would have expected Spartacus or Elmer Gantry or The Sundowners, any one of which seems like a more typical winner circa 1960. I talked about Lemmon earlier. Having grown up on My Three Sons, I was amazed later in life to dis- cover the other Fred MacMurray, the dark and creepy guy from two of my favourite films ever. (Not difficult to figure out the other.) I canít even imagine what the movie careers of Chip and Ernie were like. Also worth making note of in The Apartment: Ray Walston, from My Favorite Martian and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, and David White, the only person from Bewitched whoíll make my list twice. (Aunt Clara checks in once.) And of course, Shirley MacLaine as Miss Kubelik...big sigh. The clip below is probably my favourite scene: ďYou tell them, now and then.Ē Final thought: no one can match Billy Wilder in the last-line department. Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot, and The Apartment have three of the most famous ever. #35: Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997) Steven mentioned this in passing in one of the comments threads (The Straight Story?). I knew Iíd be listing it, so I didnít jump in. Iím surprised to see that I didnít have this on a decade-end list I put together for Scottís old Popped site (link below); I didnít even have it among my 10 runners-up. I liked it a bunch right from the get-go, so that doesnít totally make sense to me...except I see that no director is listed twice, and I had Reservoir Dogs at #6, so I must have been working under a self-imposed one-film- per-director rule. I wonít be following that for this list. Jackie Brown took over as my favourite Tarantino film a few years ago. I still think Reservoir Dogs is great, but itís all sensation, and such films can sometimes lose something over the years. I havenít budged on Pulp Fiction since I wrote a long thing about it for Martina Eddyís fanzine just after it came out: great for the first 30 or 40 minutes, then it dies during the Christopher Walken flashback and never really finds its footing again until the last scene. I donít have anything posi- tive to say about his output since Jackie Brown. I bought a used copy of Inglourious Basterds months ago, just so the used copy of Shutter Island I bought around the same time would have some company in the I-just-canít-bring-myself-to-watch-this pile. Iíve only re-watched a few of the films Iíve listed so far, but I took another look at Jackie Brown last night. I still donít understand the intricacies of ďthe exchangeĒ engineered by Jackie. What I mean is, I understand the concept of the double-switch in broad outline, but not how Jackie plays the ATF guys against Sam Jackson with two different versions of how everything will transpire, allow- ing her and Robert Forster to sneak in a third version that ends with the half-million in their hands. With a little effort, Iím sure itís not all that complicated to figure out. Thereís so much else in Jackie Brown, Iíve never felt the need to make that effort. For one thing, itís another great film (like The Straight Story) about getting old. It reminds me of ďEleanor RigbyĒ that way; there was no reason in the world why the Beatles, as 20-somethings at the apex of their worldwide celebrity and pop-star glamour, would duck out for a minute to write a heavily-orchestrated song about lonely anonymous people, just as it was unexpected (for me, anyway) that Tarantino, a 30-something director at the apex of his Sundance cool and kiss-kiss-bang-bang pyrotechnics, would suddenly have scenes where Pam Grier and Forster compare notes on aging. The pyrotechnics are still there in Jackie, but itís primarily a love story between a couple of weather- beaten 40-somethings (actually, Forsterís character is more likely in his 50s). Itís Grier and Forsterís film, but the truth is that I keep going back for Sam Jackson. His Ordell Robbie is a motormouth spinning off invective in every direction, but Jacksonís even better when he pulls back. Iím thinking of the terrifying expression on his face as he sits in the car while Johnny Cashís ďTennessee StudĒ plays, or his reaction to Forsterís line about white guilt: ďOh, itís like that, huh?Ē Based on this, Pulp Fiction, and Jungle Fever alone, heís my favourite actor of the past quarter-century. #34: Straight Time (Ulu Grosbard, 1978) í77 and í78 was right around the time when my interest in film started to deepen--or, more pre- cisely, when certain movies started to affect me more than movies had ever affected me previously. I was 17 in í78, so my timeline wonít match everybodyís; I think for many people, the most formative movie experiences of your life happen earlier, sometimes much earlier. I still have a vague memory of Straight Time being in theatres, and I remember that it looked like something Iíd want to see. Iím going to guess that at that point in my life, I would have seen All the Presidentís Men and Lenny at the drive-in with my parents, and possibly The Graduate on TV. Donít think I yet knew who Pauline Kael was, so I wouldnít have known that she called Dustin Hoffmanís performance in Straight Time ďdaring, stretching, self-testing.Ē That was an aside in her review of Agatha a year later; she didnít actually review Ulu Grosbardís film until 5001 Nights at the Movies, where she said ďHoffman gives what is possibly his finest (and most demanding) performance.Ē In any event, it would be 20 years or so until I finally caught up with Straight Time myself. Iím not sure why there was such a gap between taking an interest in the film and actually seeing it. Performances aside, Kael didnít seem to think much of Straight Time. Couldnít disagree more. That first time I saw it 10 years ago, I was surprised by just how good it was; watching it for the third or fourth time last night, I started thinking that itís pretty much a perfect film. I find myself drawn into its world almost immediately, when newly-released ex-con Max Dembo (Hoffman) checks in with his parole officer (M. Emmet Walsh) for the first time. Itís a most unpleasant scene to watch: you experience Hoffmanís embarrassment and humiliation acutely. I canít think of another movie char- acter who gets you to hate him quicker than Walshís parole officer, and he manages to do it with a smile. Max Dembo, meanwhile, is worlds away from Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, but like Ben, Max plays it very close to the vest--he chooses his words carefully. Straight Time is a good heist film in the tradition of The Killing, The Asphalt Jungle, Reservoir Dogs, Heat, and many others. But itís great film about the recidivist mindset of the career criminal, and while Iím sure thereís also a tradition it belongs to there, I canít start rhyming off titles as easily. Something else it shares with The Killing is a devastatingly bleak last line, with a few final images to match. Iíve written about character actors in the Ď70s before, and Straight Timeís one of those films like The Godfather or Nashville where theyíre all over the place. Walsh, Gary Busey, Sandy Baron (Jack Klompus on Seinfeld: ďTake the pen!Ē), Kathy Bates, Eddie Bunker (also in Reservoir Dogs), they all make an indelible impression in their two or five or ten minutes of screen time. And Harry Dean Stanton, one of the key character actors of the Ď70s, has never been better. He gets off a line in his first scene that might be the highlight of the film, and he even plays some guitar and sings a little bit. The only other Ulu Grosbard film Iíve ever seen is True Confessions with De Niro and Duvall. It was quite tedious, and Iíve forgotten it completely. #33: Tirez sur le pianiste (Francois Truffaut, 1960) I wanted to get a Godard film onto my list. After years and years of feeling like a dummy at every Godard film Iíd slog my way through, I finally found one I liked a few years ago (Vivre sa vie), then another (Band of Outsiders), and then one that I liked a whole lot (Masculin Fťminin). I felt like Iíd crossed an important barrier, a first communion or something, and I wanted to mark the occasion by getting at least one of them onto this list. So one of the first things I did, just after we started, was rent out Masculin Fťminin for another look. Second time around (and at home, as opposed to a theatre, which matters), it just didnít have quite the same impact. I did try. Tirez sur le pianiste is a film that, when I saw it for the first time back in university, didnít require nearly so much effort to connect with. I loved it then, and still do. Of the many characters on my list whoíve basically dropped out of life--Paul Benjamin, Bob Harris, Robert Dupea--Charlie Kohler has done the most thorough job of it; Tirez sur le pianiste is the most melancholic film I know. Sustaining such a mood for the duration of a film (even a really short one like this) without sliding off into the mundane or the precious requires a mysterious kind of alchemy from a director-- perfectly chosen music, expressive faces, just the right mix of grace and quiet and gentle humour-- and Francois Truffaut is probably more associated with that kind of film than anyone. (I suppose one of his major influences, Renoir, would be up near the top of that list too, but--sorry--I come up short with the movies of his that Iíve seen.) I could have gone with The 400 Blows, too; the last couple of times I watched that I was more moved than ever, I think because Iím now well on the other side of the divide, one of the people (as a grade-school teacher) who makes Antoineís life difficult. But I still feel closer to Tirez sur le pianiste. Charles Aznavour belongs to a tradition of pop stars who cross over to movies and turn out to be far more natural than youíd ever dream they would be. Just a random few from memory: Ice Cube in Boyz n tha Hood, Will Oldham in Old Joy, Claire Grogan in Comfort and Joy, John Doe in Boogie Nights, Kris Kristofferson in Cisco Pike...itís a long list. Aznavour mostly has to look sad and wistful, and isnít required to say a lot, but he sure does it well. The accompanying clip will give you a good idea of why people even name their dogs after Truffaut. #32: American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999) I expect Iíll get some grief over this one. American Beauty seems to inspire invective among critics and message-board posters who donít buy it. It aims high, and if you like it as much as I do, great; if not, itís not merely a bad movie that you see once and forget, itís some kind of nefarious fraud that fooled a lot of people (and Academy Award voters) into ascribing to it all sorts of significance that it just doesnít have. Iíve been in that place myself, of course, with lots of other films--Mulholland Dr., Fight Club, Far from Heaven, etc. None of them won a best-picture award, though, so the invective for American Beauty can be especially hostile. Even Kael managed to get in a few words a year or so before her death: ďFor some strange reason we don't go to charming, light movies anymore. People expect a movie to be heavy and turgid, like American Beauty.Ē Her disdain was echoed by Greil Marcus in an online forum Scott conducted for rockcritics.com: ďI don't recall discussing any of those movies with Paul- ine. We did talk about American Beauty, but I think I went on so long about how much I hated it she didn't get a word in.Ē Okay: the opposition rests, now itís my turn. I donít really get what Kael and others find so heavy and turgid. Three or four times, Iíll concede that the film does skirt heavy: the revelation about Chris Cooper is too pat by half, some of Kevin Spaceyís (Lester Burnham) narration needlessly spells out what the narrative has made clear already, and of course thereís the scandalous paper-bag clip found below. I love Wes Bentleyís paper-bag reverie; not sure how Iíd feel about it without the music, but lay that Satie-like backdrop in there, and I become just as much of a cosmic mush-head as Bentley. (Actually, I do know how Iíd react without the music: when I see a kidís discarded lunch bag on my classroom floor, I skip the all stuff about benevolent forces and simply bark at him to pick it up.) Most of the time, though, American Beauty makes me laugh--I should have mentioned it among my could- be-comedies. I watched Mike Judgeís Office Space last night, also from 1999, and it coincidentally had a scene that was virtually identical to one of my favourites from American Beauty: the lead char- acter is asked (by a couple of company hatchet men) to explain precisely what it is he does at his desk job every day, and he gleefully allows that he does absolutely nothing except creatively waste the companyís time and money. Judge adds a Being There twist, and the guy is promoted for his can- dor; in Sam Mendesí film, Brad the ďefficiency expertĒ is mortified as he reads Lester Burnhamís account of his duties aloud (ďand, at least once a day, I retire to the men's room so I can jerk offĒ). Of the two, I find the American Beauty version much funnier. The ďYouíre so bustedĒ scene at the drive-through, Spaceyís blubbering Jackie Gleason routine every time Mena Suvariís around, Annette Bening screaming ďFuck me, your majesty!Ē (segueing right into ďAmerican WomanĒ), I laugh all over the place in American Beauty. The theme, that if you lift up the veil of suburban normalcy youíll find all sorts of aberrant behaviour and desperate unhappiness, is age-old, so Iím not claiming any groundbreaking insights on behalf of the film. And, as Iíve written before, I think a lot of American Beauty is too much of a romp to believe that Sam Mendes takes that theme overly seriously himself--but I can see where someone else would think that he does. I donít know; itís a film that seemed weirdly great the first time I saw it, and six or seven viewings later, it still does. #31: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (Amy Heckerling, 1982) This isnít really my 31st favourite film of all time. Itís more like #71--top 100 for sure. But Iím going to slot it here for three reasons: 1) As Steven hinted about his own list, mine is just about to become very canon-predictable. Itíll be a different canon than Stevenís, but there arenít going to be many surprises the rest of the way. So whatever my real #31 pick is, I can guarantee that Fast Times is more fun to watch, and more fun to write about. 2) On the music countdown, I would occasionally let YouTube availability decide a close call. Well, not only was I able to find one of my favourite Fast Times scenes on there--with a throwaway line (ďNo, I donít have any Blue Oyster Cult...Ē) thatís been inexplicably lodged in the back of my mind for 30 years--the clip was posted, if the comments are to be believed, by the guy who played the kid looking for the BOC tickets. 3) Iíve tried to honour the serendipitous accident throughout these countdowns. And on Q-107 yester- day morning, Fast Times was the answer to one of their ďStump the ChumpĒ questions: what early-Ď80s film popularized the word ďdudeĒ? Sounds a little iffy to me, but add it all up, and there you go--#31. Fast Times is sort of like Saturday Night Fever, in that itís famous for various reasons that obscure how serious and how brutal it is at times. If you think of Fast Times, the first thing that pops into your head is Sean Pennís Spicoli, possibly one of the three or four greatest comic inventions ever, and then you probably remember the cast in general: it belongs to a group of films (American Graffiti, Animal House, Diner) where an ensemble is filled with people who later went on to various levels of fame. (Although for me, the best performance after Penn is given by Brian Backer as Mark Ratner, and he basically vanished.) Actually, let me backtrack: the first thing you might remember is Phoebe Cates, who in a single scene manages to justify the existence of the Cars. But watching it last night, I was again reminded of how incredibly up-front it is about teenage sex-- to a degree that Iíd sometimes think, ďCould you get away with that today?Ē Itís just so casual about things like Jennifer Jason Leighís 16-year-old Stacy losing her virginity to the creepy 26-year-old stereo salesman, or the scene in the cafeteria where Cates conducts her tutorial on oral sex. Even the jokier stuff can take you aback: when Judge Reinhold recites his pre-emptive breakup soliloquy, heís staring into a mirror with ďbig hairy pussyĒ scrawled all over it. Thereís all that, and then there are moments of subtlety that would be at home in a Truffaut film. Big-brother Brad waiting around for Stacy after her abortion; the way Stacy says ďYouíre so niceĒ to Ratner at the hospital; the truce between Ratner and Damone at the prom (after their beautifully han- dled locker-room confrontation). These are the moments that elevate Fast Times to something beyond what it would be without them, which would still be a very funny and smart film. The soundtrack is somewhat famous too; not being an Ď80s guy, most of the time itís just background for me. I like a few things. Jackson Browne makes for an odd icon of teenage libido, but the song of his that plays during Stacyís two big sex scenes is pretty good. Thereís a new-wavey thing called ďI Donít Know,Ē inspired by Spicoli, that I like--I checked the credits and itís Jimmy Buffett! Pennís rendition of ďWooly BullyĒ at the prom is righteously gnarly; how did this guy ever end up hectoring us about what a fine actor Jude Law is? And thereís one truly great musical moment, what Iíd probably always assumed was a Fleetwood Mac song till I checked the credits last night: Stevie Nicksí ďSleep- ing AngelĒ as Damone scrambles around to pay for Stacyís abortion. My greatest regret in life as an elementary teacher: I will never once get the opportunity to say, ďWhat are you people--on dope

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