Movies


Delhi Belly

The movie connoisseur that I am (who isn’t?), unable to digest a regular dose of insipid, uninspired, and unoriginal movies the past couple of decades, I’ve steadily gravitated towards the Independent film industry for my movie fix. A few months ago, I bought a Google TV set-top box and hooked it up to my Idiot Box. In my ongoing quest to reach the end of the Internet, which I am very close to achieving, I couldn’t afford to waste anytime without constant browsing even while watching TV.

Problem solved.

Now I am able to combine the Internet browsing experience with TV watching experience into one messy but strangely addictive media browsing experience. It is not perfect, but hey Logitech, why would you invest in a solid product like Revue and then walk away from it at the wrong time? Makes no sense. Anyway, one of the apps on Google TV (yup.. its apps gone wild.. even on TV) is Netflix. In spite of the built-up disillusionment towards Hollywood, Bollywood and every other movie industry that thinks it is cool to call itself something or the other plus ‘ollywood’, I finally caved in and got that Netflix subscription I was trying not to get lured into. After punching in my preferences and rating some movies, they came up with a few they thought matched my interests and one of them was Delhi Belly. I wasn’t immediately drawn to it, but I remembered a friend had recommended it and it had a look of an Indie flick and so I decided to give it a try against my better instincts.

I have to admit that I am fairly out of touch with the movie scene in Mumbai, and I didn’t know any of the actors in this movie, which is another reason I thought I could give it a shot. Lord knows I would have unsubscribed Netflix in a New York second if they showed anything involving Sharukh Khan to match my interests. I didn’t know it was from Aamir Khan Productions instead, until after I started watching it. The movie, made in English aiming for an overseas crossover appeal, is about a Delhi-based yuppie threesome, Tashi and his two roommates, and their unwitting encounters and wild escapades against a group of gangsters whose smuggled maal ends up in our protagonists’ hands unintentionally. While there’s nothing novel about the premise, the film makers were going for a cool and contemporary presentation that fits all audience alike – desi and phoren.

Delhi Belly Gangsters


As topsy-turvy comedies go, this is not a bad movie, but I couldn’t get over a couple of things. For me, it still feels odd to watch a Desi movie made in English regardless of the quality of the screenplay (more about that later). This is mainly because of a lack of native authenticity that goes with it. I have nothing against English. I am writing in it. Nothing against an honest effort to make Indian movie in English either, and to be fair, it is not a stretch to assume that desi yuppies of Facebook generation speak more in English than in their native language, and I could get over the fact that Tashi and his sidekicks only talk in English. It was more difficult for me to ignore the oddity of the smuggling ring leader and his cartoonish cronies, clearly looking like the goondas hanging around in your neighborhood gullies, talk in English. Every now and then, the gang leader would break into Hindi when he apparently gets angry and feels like unfurling a few choice profanities to show how tough he is. Just weird.

On the positive side, the photography was decent, Kunaal Roy Kapur, playing the role of Nitin, as one of Tashi’s roommates, stood out with his acting, and the screenplay was intelligent and well written, if you can tune out the liberal dose of “fucks” and “bastards” and “sister fuckers” in every other conversation. The coarseness of the obscenities was very intentional and carefully planned, again trying to “shock” the desi audience with a sense of “you haven’t heard anything like this before.” Generally, the movie is not boring and has its moments, but the whole thing feels a bit forced.

Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels vs Delhi Belly

The main problem I had with the movie was not its vulgarity. I am already desensitized beyond repair on that front, thanks to Hollywood and America in general, but the issue I had was this constant pretension throughout, that they are creating something original, with an attitude of here we are, cool new-age hipsters, we’ll mock at your status quo and thumb our noses at your boring and uncool societal decorum and etiquette. Fine, that’s a brave front to put on if you can back it up with some substance, but underneath their pretentious exterior is matter that is razor-thin superficial, creating a bits and pieces mixtape of popular off-beat American and English flicks from the past 15 years. A strong base of “Lock stock and two smoking barrels“, a pinch of “Oceans Eleven“, a touch of “Get Shorty“, a dash of “Tropic Thunder” with Aamir Khan dancing as “Disco Fighter” a. la. Tom Cruise dancing as “Les Grossman” during credit roll, a forced infusion of poop jokes from your average juvenile flick with a strong pretension of anarchism with only passing references to the so called taboo items, as if to say, “look, we are hip and progressive”, and yet not showing any courage at all to really push the envelope at any point, and all along mitigating it into a warm and fuzzy chaotic comedy along the lines of a Priyadarshan flick. That is Delhi Belly in a nutshell for you. At least Priyadarshan flicks like “Hera Pheri” and “Bagham Bagh” are not pretentious about what they are, and I would easily rate them above this one. I don’t pretend to know the desi Independent film scene. Trying to recall, in recent years, I’ve seen “Dev D“, “Gulaal“, “Udaan“, “Ek Chalis ki Last Local”, and I was more impressed with those movies than this one, even if they don’t provide that “cross-over” appeal that Aamir Khan seems to crave so much.

Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder vs Aamir Khan in Delhi Belly

Speaking of Aamir Khan, the most risk he ever took as an actor was in his role as Dil Nawaaz in Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth. Clearly, he was interested in expanding his horizons beyond your boy-meets-girl-dances-in-public-parks-beats-up-bad-guys roles unlike his contemporary movie stars, but his greatest strength is his ability to package mainstream material with an off-beat wrapper, and fooling those audience tired of your average masala cinema into believing that they watched something that is different. And with all that promise and potential, he seems to lack the courage to take the full leap into the artistic realm. Even in “Tare Zameen Par“, born out of a genuine artistic intention, and perhaps his best work so far, in my opinion, he couldn’t completely shed the angst of commercial appeal. 15 minutes into Delhi Belly, it was obvious this serving was nothing more than your commercial Hindi cinema carefully rearranged to look like an Indie delicacy. But over 90% rating in Rotten Tomatoes, over 7.5 rating in IMDB proves that he knows what sells. But so does Sharukh Khan and the scores of bullshit movies he and others make in Bollywood that set the Indian movie industry behind by decades. And for some reason I expect more from Aamir Khan, when in many ways he is no different, he just pretends to be different. And similarly, Delhi Belly doesn’t really appeal to my Indie predilection, it just pretends to do so.

It might appear like I set out to trash Aamir Khan here, but that was not my intention when I started typing this, and its not like he is getting to spend my money on his projects. But I am not in the film industry and I am just your average movie fan that likes to value movies as genuine art forms, and in the homogenized world of formulaic mainstream cinema, I do look to the Indie world for the rebellion, and to quote a wise young punk called Stevo from a quintessential Indie gem called SLC Punk, “Posers were people who looked like punks but they did it for fashion.” Searching for one word that best describes Delhi Belly, that’s what comes to mind – a Poser.

Advertisements

"You can call him The Dude or His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing"

Last night, I was watching the wonderful PBS series, American Masters, as they opened their 25th season with “Jeff Bridges: The Dude Abides”, a fitting title to a nice potrayal of Jeff Bridges. It took me back to a time when I used to go out late, with a couple of my friends who were movie enthusiasts like me, to a nearby multiplex showing not-so-new movies for $1.50 each. That was the time before the ubiquity of DVDs and big screen TVs, the rise of both has since marginalized these economical cine projections into antiquated novelties. I watched many a memorable movie whose name I hadn’t heard of before in these shows – The 13th Warrior, The Usual Suspects and Election to name a few. But by far, the best unheard-of-movie that I had ever watched in such late night adventures is The Big Lebowski.

Boy, were we blown away! The Dude had made an impression on us that would last forever.

Just as the three of us who watched it together at that time had never heard of it before, there were many who were unaware of his Dudeness for a long time since. Yet, to this day, any conversations we have among us don’t go beyond two or three sentences before the Dude makes an appearance. Glad to see him reach a cult status now, but for years, we couldn’t fathom why no one recognized this masterpiece and why so many never truly appreciated his brilliant portrayal. Yes, the writing from the Coen brothers is some of the best ever, but I doubt if anyone could have brought The Dude to life like Jeff Bridges did.

While he won his Oscar recently for his Crazy Heart performance, in my mind’s image, he is frozen forever as the Dude. Looking back at his earlier movies and his performances in Bad Company, Cutter’s way, Starman, and The Contender, I always thought he came across as an uncontrived actor who is never trying too hard.. comfortably lulling some into overlooking him, but never leaving them rolling their eyes for over-doing it. He just seems to be himself in every role, letting the character come to him. Well, the Dude abides.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite scenes of him with The Big Lebowski.
“I’ve got information..man.. new shit has come to light!”

Dark City.. one of those pleasant surprises the quest for which drove me to watch loads of crappy movies

I have been an avid if not an enthusiastic movie-watcher all my life. There was a time when I would go to the theatres or the video store, look at the movie covers, make a snap judgment, pick a movie and sit through its entirety no matter how rotten it was. I did catch lightening in bottle a few times, in the form of Kevin Spacey and The Usual Suspects, Jennifer Connelly and Dark City, Guy Ritchie and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and even Antonio Banderas and The 13th Warrior, to name a few. The allure of being pleasantly surprised still makes me take such life risks even now, albeit sporadically, since I no longer have the time for the crap load of senseless flicks released every year. These surprises have been far and few in between, interspersed with a long list of un-imaginative, cookie-cutter, B-grade Hollywood productions. All it takes for me now-a-days is a poster and a preview to sniff out where it falls in my suck-o-meter. Call it a gift or a knack honed from watching one too many Steven Segal flicks, but here are a few of my red flag rules to watch out for, if you want to avoid a bad movie.

It smells like a bad movie if Ben Affleck is playing the lead

Ben Affleck in Paycheck.. proving why he is #1 in this list

He cannot act. No ifs and buts. It doesn’t matter how well the movie is made, all you can think of throughout the movie is “Poor guy, he cannot act. I know he is trying hard, but he can’t do it. This is like me trying to dunk a basketball. I can barely touch the lower end of the net string with my tallest jump. Please put him out of this misery. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, why is he subjecting himself to this torture? Is the Director so blind that he cannot notice that his lead can’t act? This is the same guy who won an Oscar for screenplay of Good Will Hunting, why couldn’t he just stick to writing? Here comes an emotional scene. God! This is awkward. Cut! Cut! Cut!”

I do qualify these as movies with him playing the lead, because put him in as a sidekick with not much to say, surround him with actual actors, and don’t go overboard with the close-ups just because you think he is handsome, there is a chance. Examples: Good Will Hunting, State of Play

It smells like a bad movie if you are watching a period piece

The Duchess.. yup.. a period piece.

Just because you want to recreate the world of America during the Great Depression, it doesn’t mean you have to make a depressingly bad movie. Most often, these movies are dominated by the director’s obsession with capturing the moment of that era. In the painstaking detail that goes into creating the backdrop, the set, the wardrobe, the choreography, the fundamental reason for people watching movies is most often forgotten. How appealing is the story? I can also not get over the fact that everyone is dressed so impeccably well in these movies that it feels like I am watching a fancy dress competition instead of witnessing a story unfolding in front of me. These movies rarely make me feel like they are reflecting reality of its time, and even if they manage to do so, that in itself is not the motive for me to watch the movie. The fake grandiosity with glossy characters and sepia backgrounds only end up making the movie bland, predictable and boring. Movie making should be about story telling. And if you are out to tell a compelling story that happens to be set in a time bygone, the period piece should blend into the backdrop of the story being presented, not the other way round where it is in your face and overwhelming that same story the audience should be drawn to.

It smells like a bad movie if the movie is supposed to be “based on a true story”

The Men Who Stare At Goats.. based on a true story

First of all, the oxymoron that is the reality TV is no less moronic than the bullshit that is a based-on-a-true-story movie. There is as much “basis” to whatever true story these movies loosely refer to as there is “reality” in reality TV. The veracity of such movie plots aside, if I am interested in watching a true story, I will sit at home and watch the news. If I want a more detailed account I can’t get in a news capsule, I’ll watch a documentary. If I want it told in a melodramatic fashion, I’d much rather watch the B-Grade dramatization on History Channel that claim some close approximations to what really happened then. What is my interest in watching a movie that is based on a true story? None. It is neither a story nor the truth, neither fiction nor non-fiction, and in the end, neither here nor there. In fact, if a movie producer is dumb enough to advertize his movie as based on a true story, that proclamation in itself should make you want to avoid that movie like the plague, for it tells you enough about the lack of intelligence that went into that ill-fated production.

It smells like a bad movie if the entire premise for the movie is based on the lead character, most of the times a girl, suffering from a terminal disease.

Dying Young.. you get the picture

You know her time’s up and she’s a goner; but for the poor audience trapped in this miserable yuck-fest, it can’t happen sooner and they are stuck with watching her go on a sacrifice-spree preaching little nuggets of life’s lessons to people around her, perhaps an unknowing boyfriend, a long-term girlfriend, a selfish family or a troubled neighborhood. It doesn’t matter; you get no respite until the credit roll. Whether you were misguided, misled or just made a mistake by walking into this one, as soon as the family doc gives her the news, if you just abandon the show and spend the rest of that time poking your eyeballs with sharp needles, you will find that more enjoyable than watching the rest of this movie. Usually, these movies invariably fall under the category of chick flick tear-jerkers, and to think that you choose to entertain yourself like this is even sadder. If you don’t believe me, try watching shit like Sweet November or A Walk to Remember or very subtly named Dying Young.

It smells like a bad movie if the movie ends with a wedding.

Hitch.. one of the many mediocre movies ending with a wedding

What the @#$%? Is it not enough that the flawed institution of marriage is forced down everyone’s throat as the logical requirement for co-existence of love? Even if you concede to the debatable concept of love, with an over-exploited and overdone theme of “soul-mates”, to the point that the general population is brainwashed into grasping at the straws of its mere perception, do you have to really end such clichéd love stories by showing the couple getting married as the final sequence of your movie? Really? Is that the best you can do? If that’s your way of suggesting that they live happily ever after, statistically, there is a 50-50 chance that they will end up in a divorce in a few years. While a marriage is nothing more than an insurance pact to tighten the societal perceptions of morality, the bullshit notion that love and marriage go hand in hand is further perpetuated with these unimaginative endings from average directors with no creativity. If a director ends a movie with a marriage, he or she is immediately losing my respect.

It smells like a bad movie if you are watching a super-hero movie the sole purpose of its existence is to showcase geeky special effects.

GI Joe - Rise of the Cobra.. what scares me is that a title like that forebodes a sequel coming... GI Joe - Revenge of the Mongoose?

The plot for these movies exists to serve the purpose of incorporating cool special effects instead of the other way round. In recent years, I witnessed three versions of Spidey (my favorite super hero as a kid btw), an impressive Iron Man with a not so impressive sequel, two versions of the hashed and rehashed Batman with a revived Superman in between, a couple of versions of Hellboy (I do like Pearlman), an abomination of a Will Smith’s Hancock, a slew of X-Men with the last of them so bad that you should be rewarded if you are able to sit through the entire move, a not-so-bad Watchmen, a couple of no-good Fantastic Fours capping off with the crappiest of them all in G.I. Joe. The recurring theme for all the ones that suck is a brain-dead plot or a complete lack of one, and scenes exclusively created to set the stage for a cool special effect coming up. After watching a few of these, the pattern is so obvious; you’d have to be blind to not notice it.
.
.

It smells like a bad movie if the movie ends with a forced and disjointed ending to fool the audience into believing it is a great twist.

Surveillance - a good movie ruined by a truly twisted ending.

You have been watching the movie intently for one whole hour. The director has done a good job in keeping you in your seat. You are going along with the story, and you begin to get the eerie felling that it is falling apart, all in an attempt to produce an unbelievable twist. You can suddenly see scenes that are disjointed and characters acting out-of-character in trying to elevate what was seemingly a good movie into an extremely memorable one. Sadly, these attempts only end up spiraling down the movie into a forgettable one instead, turning it into one of those that had great potential, but ended up below par because someone thought forcing some ending that doesn’t satisfy the story that has been presented so far was a great idea. Whether it is a result of not starting the project with a clear and complete picture in mind or whether it is a result of statistics from pre-release audience research, the story loses its integrity and in trying to focus on the rewards instead of focusing on the quality of your product, you throw away what could have been a decent movie into an undistinguished pile of celluloid junk. All you can get out of these movies are the audience walking out the door murmuring “what the @#$% happened to this movie? It was going so well.” Case in point: Surveillance, a seemingly brilliant movie ruined by the twisted ending. Other examples: Cast away, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Vanilla Sky, Planet of the Apes

It smells like a bad movie if the movie is entirely made up of cheesy one-liners.

Vin Diesel - A Man Apart.. when it comes to cheesy one-liners

I can understand the appeal of one-liners when used sparingly, but it can’t be the only source of diet for the movie to survive. I did like Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “I’ll be back” in the Terminator, but the Terminator movies (1 and 2 only) had a gripping plot, a central theme that was only enhanced by the ground-breaking special effects for their time, and even if they didn’t have these one-liners, they would have been great flicks. The movies that suck are movies that solely rely on these cheap one-liners for their entire screenplay. They don’t have a script, and are made up on the fly –  movies like 300; just a compilation of random body builders yelling unfunny macho rebuttals at each other isn’t my idea of a good movie, but I am perhaps in the minority when it comes to this particular one. Others in this category: Gone in 60 seconds, most of the Rocky sequels, almost all Steven Segal movies and except Pitch Black (that one I like), almost all Vin Diesel bad-ass movies full of his constipated one-liners.

Tears for Fears - Mad World - 1982 original single

It takes a brave soul to pick a popular score and try to reinvent it and appeal to the audience who hold the original in high regard.  You are attempting to create something to compete with a product that is not only good but also holds a sentimental attachment with their audience for withstanding the test of time.  So I don’t begrudge the attempt, but you better make that reinterpretation exceptionally good, because it will be torn apart and shredded to pieces under intense scrutiny.

So logically, 99 times out of a 100, the remakes or remixes fall way short of the originals for me.  There are very few exceptions.  I can think of Mariah Carey’s remake of Jackson 5’s “I’ll be there“.  For my money, thats her best ever.. and even better than young Jackson’s original and thats saying a lot.  I can also think of the 10000 Mainacs’ “Because the Night.  I like it better than Patti Smith’s original version.. and then there was Michal Andrews and Gary Jules’ “Mad World”.

Andrews and Jules - Mad World - 2001 Soundtrack for Donnie Darko

Michael and Gary borrowed these wonderful lyrics from a Tears for Fears original single in early 80s to create a brilliant piece.  Released with the soundtrack for one of my favorite movies of the past decade in Donnie Darko, this one falls in the same category of a remake outshining the original.    It is also such a fitting finale to a gripping movie that manages to carry an intelligent presentation to the very edge, almost but not tipping over into my dismissive territory of trying-to-be-cool-but-bullshit weirdness, and pulling it back to connect the dots and touch the soul of the audience with this superb climactic song..

Here’s the original from Tears for Fears..with a distinct 80s touch..

Here’s the video of Andrews/Jules cover version..

All around me are familiar faces
worn out places, worn out faces

bright and early for their daily races
going nowhere, going nowhere

and their tears are filling up their glasses
no expression, no expression

hide my head I want to drown my sorrow
no tomorrow, no tomorrow

and i find it kind of funny
I find it kind of sad
the dreams in which i’m dying
are the best I’ve ever had
I find it hard to tell you
‘cos I find it hard to take
when people run in circles
it’s a very, very
mad world

children waiting for the day they feel good
happy birthday, happy birthday

made to feel the way that every child should
sit and listen, sit and listen

went to school and i was very nervous
no one knew me, no one knew me

hello teacher tell me what’s my lesson
look right through me, look right through me

 

..a perfectionist with a passion and vision for film making.

..a perfectionist with a passion and vision for film making.

The accolades for Guru Dutt are far and many, so there is nothing I can add that hasn’t already been mentioned.

If you follow the history of Indian movies, especially hindi movies, it is hard not to notice how Guru Dutt’s work stands apart.  The angles of his shots, the cinematography, the closeups, the attention to detail, the precise camera movements, music that fits, songs that mean something and a storyline that is beyond the tedious banality of the shallow love stories and cartoonish villains that are all too prevalent in Indian movies even today, he was an idealist with a passion for film making and an interest in setting a high standard for it.

His life was enigmatic, short and sad, and his death controversial and an undoubted loss to Indian cinema.

Thanks to eratini84‘s posts, I compiled this youtube playlist of  this wonderful documentary on the life and work of Guru Dutt, titled In Search of Guru Dutt. You can also find this as an extra feature on the Kagaz Ke Phool DVD.

AFI Top 10 sports movies

Ever since AFI (America Film Institute) came out with its AFI top 100, top 10 in 10 different genres, it has been irking me to no end to not see some very good movies that deserve to be in that list. I finally decided to address the Top 10 Sports movies in this post. Here’s the AFI list:

10. Jerry Maguire – It is a joke that this movie is in this list. Not a bad movie, but top 10 all time!? “Show me the money” you say, give me a break. Definitely out from my list.

9. National Velvet – Micky Rooney, Liz Taylor (young) horse racing yarn. Again, not a bad movie, but sorry, doesn’t make my cut.

8. Breaking Away – Bike race with Dennis Christopher and Dennis Quaid, a good movie, but just misses my cut.

7. Caddyshack – You can make a case for this to get into the top 10 of the Comedy genre too – remains.

6. The Hustler – Top notch flick with stellar performance from Newman – remains.

5. Bull Durham – Another classic, absolutely belongs here.

4. Hoosiers – Definitely, yes.

3. The Pride of the Yankees – Sentimental favorite, but misses my cut.

2. Rocky – It would be sacrilegious if it didn’t make it, we might as well ignore the genre.

1. Raging Bull – Scorsese – De Niro – Jake La Matta. It belongs in this list, but not my #1.

So, after some review, here are my top 10 sports movies


10. The Longest Yard (1974): How can you not have a single Football movie in American Film Institute’s top 10 sports movies when Football is America’s passion?
I am not even going to acknowledge the concoction that is the new Adam Sandler remake in order to give the original (1974) and the best its due respect. This movie was one of a kind when it was released with immense success and has had as much of an impact as any other movie on this genre.

..an underrated classic.

..an underrated classic.

Burt Reynolds plays Paul Crewe, a dishonored quarterback put in jail, who is forced to put together a group of convicts to play a game of football against the guards and eventually redeems himself by doing the right thing at the end. If that reads like a story of many sports movies you are familiar with, they were all made after The Longest Yard and copied its theme. BTW.. that Soccer movie “Victory” with Stallone and Pele’s bicycle kick, was made 7 years after the Longest Yard and is essentially a soccer version of the same story, just to add some perspective on the relevance of this movie in this list. Reynolds was at the height of his fame when this was made and I am not sure if people remember that he was an all conference halfback at Florida State University and would have played in the pros if not for a knee injury and a car accident that sidelined him and made him into a big time 70s hero. So, it was not some wannabe hack that was gathering those convicts to play that game. 35 years later, it is still hard to find a better Football movie.


9. Major League (1989): If AFI can pick Caddyshack to make their top 10, I am

..still the funniest

..still the funniest

perplexed as to how Major League couldn’t make it. My suspicion is they were trying to squeeze as many different sports as they can into the top 10 and not necessarily picking the best top 10 in the genre. If they did, you can’t ignore this movie. Perhaps.. not perhaps.. definitely the most hilarious baseball movie ever made and one of the most quotable sports movies of all time. Whether its Willie Mays Haze (Wesley Snipes, early in his career) “Willie Mays Hayes. I hit like Mays, and I run like Hayes.” or Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen and his deadpan one-liners) revealing that he played in “The California penal..” league or such priceless play-by-play lines from Harry Doyle (Bob Yucker) as “Low, and he walks the bases loaded on 12 straight pitches. How can these guys lay off pitches that close?”, it is a modern classic that belongs in the top 10.


8. Slap shot (1977): If you combine the charm of a minor league operation typified in

.. a cult classic

.. a cult classic

Bull Durham and throw in the colorful characters of Major league and make a movie on Ice Hockey, you get Slap shot – only Slap shot was made in 1977, a dozen years before the creation of either of those movies.
Newman plays player/coach Reggie Dunlap of Charlestown Chiefs of the Federal League, where hard times that fall upon the town make it apparent that his team will be folding at the end of the season. To instill a sense of belief and desire to win and hoping a potential winning season might spark a sale of the team, Dunlap makes up a false story of an outside interest in purchasing the team that his players buy into. As the Hanson brothers, three new players hired to play on his team, turn to their violent ways, Dunlap watches as the team start attracting huge crowds and heavy following as they keep winning with their fighting ways.

Only reason this movie doesn’t have as much fanfare and following worldwide is because hockey isn’t popular enough beyond the Canadian borders, but that can’t hide how good a movie this is. It is a true classic that made the Hanson brothers cult heroes of the Hockey world.


7. Caddyshack (1980): In many ways Caddyshack is the movie that made golf cool.

..made Golf cool and funny

..made Golf cool and funny

Lets face it, it was a monumental achievement to pick up what is essentially a prissy sport; many debate if it should even be called a sport where as recently as a few days ago a 60 year old guy just missed winning the British Open, one of its majors, and make as funny a movie as Caddyshack. The story revolves around Danny Noonam (Michael O’Keefe), one of the youngsters working as a caddy at a country club. An assortment of quirky characters, members of the country club such as Ty Webb (Chevy Chase and his deadpan delivery), Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield and his utter irreverence to the Golf etiquette), Judge Smails (Ted Knight and his prudish ways), and the course curator Carl Spackler (Bill Murray and his battles with the course gophers) make for a hilarious romp. Over the years, it has evolved into a cult classic and a quotable quote machine for golf.


6. Raging Bull (1980): I am not such a big fan of Martin Scorsese. He might be a great

.. De Niro at his best

.. De Niro at his best

director, his film-making style just doesn’t appeal to me as much as it does to most. Raging Bull is an excellent movie though. Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci are absolutely brilliant as Jake La Motta and his brother.
Scorsese’s portrays the life of a boxer whose only form of expression is violence and rage, and the same elements that make him successful within the rink take over his personal life and destroy his marriage, his relationship with his brother, and slowly but surely ruin his career.

With DeNiro at the height of his cinematic greatness, and Pesci’s virtuoso performance as his brother, this is the second best boxing movie ever made in my book.


5. The Hustler (1961): One of Paul Newman’s best performances, this movie is all

.. pool house brilliance

.. pool house brilliance

about the unscrupulous and untrustworthy pool sharks and pool hustlers with brilliant black and white cinematography depicting the dark, shady, smoke-filled urban rooms with pool tables and the subculture of its players.

Newman shines as an ambitious, arrogant, young, talented, cynical, restless and disillusioned player seeking a shot at proving himself to be the best by beating Minnesota Fats, played by Jackie Gleason. A true classic!


4. Bull Durham (1988): A very popular and pleasing choice in this list, with Kevin

..monor league charm

..monor league charm

Costner playing an aging catcher on his way out, Tim Robbins a young, emerging, talented pitcher destined for stardom, and Susan Sarandon the muse that enlivens the minor league operations of Durham Bulls, this movie provides great comedy, captures the charm of minor league baseball, the apprenticeship of a youngster with counseling from a veteran, and a love story with a heart-warming ending. No wonder its appeal is broader than just the sports genre.


3. Hoosiers (1986): If you are wondering why this movie is rated so high.. a) I am a big

.. still the best Basketball movie ever

.. still the best Basketball movie ever

fan of Gene Hackman and b) I am a sucker for the whole underdog-winning-against-the-odds sentiment of which there has never been a basketball movie made before and after this one that captured this feeling any better. Small town Indiana, where basketball is religion and the farmlands are studded with make-shift hoops with kids practicing shooting in the twilight dusk, is captured to perfection, as the movie follows the main character of Normal Dale (Hackman), an outsider who walks into town, preaches tough love and transforms an underdog high school team into champions. Whats not to like about it? There have been many imitators since, but this one stands out atop!


2. Rocky (1976): This movie needs no introduction…. Sylvester “Sly” Stallone’s once-

.. inspirational!

.. inspirational underdog story!

in-a-lifetime achievement as Rocky Balboa, the ultimate underdog Philadelphia boxer who wants to “go the distance” in a one time shot at the heavy weight championship. The screenplay, the music, and the performances are outstanding making Rocky an iconic figure in American movie history. It is no exaggeration that a whole generation of Americans grew up with Rocky as an inspirational figure and what baffles me more than anything else is how great a job Stallone did as a screen writer for this movie and how he could have made so many crappy movies since? Regardless, there will never be another Rocky and no matter how many more crappier movies Stallone continues to make, he will forever be remembered fondly as that guy jogging through the morning mist on the steps of Philadelphia Museum of Arts with the “Gonna fly now” training montage in pursuit of his goal, which is bound to give you goosebumps even after watching it a zillion times.


1. Field of Dreams (1989): I can understand if many don’t have this rated this high. I

..baseball and cornfield.. awe and wonder

..baseball in cornfield.. awe and wonder

would vehemently disagree with them, but I can understand, and I might be prejudiced because Field of Dreams blew me away when I watched it for the first time and left an indelible print of baseball and American Midwest in my mind. It is a personal choice, but hey.. it is my list! Now, AFI can choose to categorize this under “Fantasy”, but I place it under the sports genre. Granted, the movie is not centered around a sporting event or is about more than just baseball, but baseball is at the heart and center of it all and I refuse to take it out of this genre. “If you build it, he will come”.. when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner), an Iowa corn-growing farmer, hears these words in his corn fields, he construes them to be a message to him to build a baseball diamond in his field, and when he gets another message to bring Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) there, he sets out to convince the 1960s author and civil rights activist and bring him over to his corn fields in Iowa – all out of the blue without completely comprehending why. The movie is filled with a sense of awe and wonder, all centered around baseball, the bond between parents and offspring, a willingness to pursue your dreams and if you don’t know the story upfront, a sense of anticipation of what might happen without completely knowing why, all in a baseball diamond, in the middle of an expansive corn field somewhere in the plains of Iowa.  My all-time favorite!


Honorable mentions that missed my cut: The Natural, Brian’s Song, Breaking away, Seabiscuit, The Pride of the Yankees, Remember the Titans.

More later with the top 10 from other genres.

..one of my favorite writers.

..one of my favorite writers.

James Thurber remains one of my favorite writers.  He was a cartoonist, essayist, a humorist and a literary critic, but was most well known for his short stories and cartoons.   He worked on The New Yorker staff for a number of years through the 1920s, 30s and 40s.  You can read more about his background and biography at the wikipedia site.

I read The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, perhaps his most popular short story, back  in high school for the first time and was at once drawn to the witty prose and an easy narrative style.   It first appeared in The New Yorker in 1930, and has been reprinted in a couple of collections since then.  Thurber lost one of his eyes as a child, while playing the story of William Tell with his brother, when his brother shot him in the eye with an arrow, which later caused him to become almost entirely blind.  Yet, it enhanced his creative imagination and produced such delectable short stories as The Scret Life of Walter Mitty.  It was made into a movie in 1947 starring Danny Kaye as Walter Mitty.

After the short story below, you can find the link to my youtube playlist with with the entire movie (thanks to Huilifoj for the movie posts).

Thanks to this site owner for the short story content below.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

by James Thurber


..by James Thurber

..by James Thurber

“WE’RE going through!” The Commander’s voice was like thin ice breaking. He wore his full-dress uniform, with the heavily braided white cap pulled down rakishly over one cold gray eye. “We can’t make it, sir. It’s spoiling for a hurricane, if you ask me.” “I’m not asking you, Lieutenant Berg,” said the Commander. “Throw on the power lights! Rev her up to 8500! We’re going through!” The pounding of the cylinders increased: ta-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. The Commander stared at the ice forming on the pilot window. He walked over and twisted a row of complicated dials. “Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!” he shouted. “Switch on No. 8 auxiliary!” repeated Lieutenant Berg. “Full strength in No. 3 turret!” shouted the Commander. “Full strength in No. 3 turret!” The crew, bending to their various tasks in the huge, hurtling eight-engined Navy hydroplane, looked at each other and grinned. “The Old Man’ll get us through,” they said to one another. “The Old Man ain’t afraid of hell!” . . .

“Not so fast! You’re driving too fast!” said Mrs. Mitty. “What are you driving so fast for?”

“Hmm?” said Walter Mitty. He looked at his wife, in the seat beside him, with shocked astonishment. She seemed grossly unfamiliar, like a strange woman who had yelled at him in a crowd. “You were up to fifty-five,” she said. “You know I don’t like to go more than forty. You were up to fifty-five.” Walter Mitty drove on toward Waterbury in silence, the roaring of the SN202 through the worst storm in twenty years of Navy flying fading in the remote, intimate airways of his mind. “You’re tensed up again,” said Mrs. Mitty. “It’s one of your days. I wish you’d let Dr. Renshaw look you over.”

Walter Mitty stopped the car in front of the building where his wife went to have her hair done. “Remember to get those overshoes while I’m having my hair done,” she said. “I don’t need overshoes,” said Mitty. She put her mirror back into her bag. “We’ve been all through that,” she said, getting out of the car. “You’re not a young man any longer.” He raced the engine a little. “Why don’t you wear your gloves? Have you lost your gloves?” Walter Mitty reached in a pocket and brought out the gloves. He put them on, but after she had turned and gone into the building and he had driven on to a red light, he took them off again. “Pick it up, brother!” snapped a cop as the light changed, and Mitty hastily pulled on his gloves and lurched ahead. He drove around the streets aimlessly for a time, and then he drove past the hospital on his way to the parking lot.

. . . “It’s the millionaire banker, Wellington McMillan,” said the pretty nurse. “Yes?” said Walter Mitty, removing his gloves slowly. “Who has the case?” “Dr. Renshaw and Dr. Benbow, but there are two specialists here, Dr. Remington from New York and Dr. Pritchard-Mitford from London. He flew over.” A door opened down a long, cool corridor and Dr. Renshaw came out. He looked distraught and haggard. “Hello, Mitty,” he said. `’We’re having the devil’s own time with McMillan, the millionaire banker and close personal friend of Roosevelt. Obstreosis of the ductal tract. Tertiary. Wish you’d take a look at him.” “Glad to,” said Mitty.

In the operating room there were whispered introductions: “Dr. Remington, Dr. Mitty. Dr. Pritchard-Mitford, Dr. Mitty.” “I’ve read your book on streptothricosis,” said Pritchard-Mitford, shaking hands. “A brilliant performance, sir.” “Thank you,” said Walter Mitty. “Didn’t know you were in the States, Mitty,” grumbled Remington. “Coals to Newcastle, bringing Mitford and me up here for a tertiary.” “You are very kind,” said Mitty. A huge, complicated machine, connected to the operating table, with many tubes and wires, began at this moment to go pocketa-pocketa-pocketa. “The new anesthetizer is giving away!” shouted an intern. “There is no one in the East who knows how to fix it!” “Quiet, man!” said Mitty, in a low, cool voice. He sprang to the machine, which was now going pocketa-pocketa-queep-pocketa-queep . He began fingering delicately a row of glistening dials. “Give me a fountain pen!” he snapped. Someone handed him a fountain pen. He pulled a faulty piston out of the machine and inserted the pen in its place. “That will hold for ten minutes,” he said. “Get on with the operation. A nurse hurried over and whispered to Renshaw, and Mitty saw the man turn pale. “Coreopsis has set in,” said Renshaw nervously. “If you would take over, Mitty?” Mitty looked at him and at the craven figure of Benbow, who drank, and at the grave, uncertain faces of the two great specialists. “If you wish,” he said. They slipped a white gown on him, he adjusted a mask and drew on thin gloves; nurses handed him shining . . .

“Back it up, Mac!! Look out for that Buick!” Walter Mitty jammed on the brakes. “Wrong lane, Mac,” said the parking-lot attendant, looking at Mitty closely. “Gee. Yeh,” muttered Mitty. He began cautiously to back out of the lane marked “Exit Only.” “Leave her sit there,” said the attendant. “I’ll put her away.” Mitty got out of the car. “Hey, better leave the key.” “Oh,” said Mitty, handing the man the ignition key. The attendant vaulted into the car, backed it up with insolent skill, and put it where it belonged.

They’re so damn cocky, thought Walter Mitty, walking along Main Street; they think they know everything. Once he had tried to take his chains off, outside New Milford, and he had got them wound around the axles. A man had had to come out in a wrecking car and unwind them, a young, grinning garageman. Since then Mrs. Mitty always made him drive to a garage to have the chains taken off. The next time, he thought, I’ll wear my right arm in a sling; they won’t grin at me then. I’ll have my right arm in a sling and they’ll see I couldn’t possibly take the chains off myself. He kicked at the slush on the sidewalk. “Overshoes,” he said to himself, and he began looking for a shoe store.

When he came out into the street again, with the overshoes in a box under his arm, Walter Mitty began to wonder what the other thing was his wife had told him to get. She had told him, twice before they set out from their house for Waterbury. In a way he hated these weekly trips to town–he was always getting something wrong. Kleenex, he thought, Squibb’s, razor blades? No. Tooth paste, toothbrush, bicarbonate, Carborundum, initiative and referendum? He gave it up. But she would remember it. “Where’s the what’s-its- name?” she would ask. “Don’t tell me you forgot the what’s-its-name.” A newsboy went by shouting something about the Waterbury trial.

. . . “Perhaps this will refresh your memory.” The District Attorney suddenly thrust a heavy automatic at the quiet figure on the witness stand. “Have you ever seen this before?” Walter Mitty took the gun and examined it expertly. “This is my Webley-Vickers 50.80,” ho said calmly. An excited buzz ran around the courtroom. The Judge rapped for order. “You are a crack shot with any sort of firearms, I believe?” said the District Attorney, insinuatingly. “Objection!” shouted Mitty’s attorney. “We have shown that the defendant could not have fired the shot. We have shown that he wore his right arm in a sling on the night of the fourteenth of July.” Walter Mitty raised his hand briefly and the bickering attorneys were stilled. “With any known make of gun,” he said evenly, “I could have killed Gregory Fitzhurst at three hundred feet with my left hand.” Pandemonium broke loose in the courtroom. A woman’s scream rose above the bedlam and suddenly a lovely, dark-haired girl was in Walter Mitty’s arms. The District Attorney struck at her savagely. Without rising from his chair, Mitty let the man have it on the point of the chin. “You miserable cur!” . . .

“Puppy biscuit,” said Walter Mitty. He stopped walking and the buildings of Waterbury rose up out of the misty courtroom and surrounded him again. A woman who was passing laughed. “He said ‘Puppy biscuit,'” she said to her companion. “That man said ‘Puppy biscuit’ to himself.” Walter Mitty hurried on. He went into an A. & P., not the first one he came to but a smaller one farther up the street. “I want some biscuit for small, young dogs,” he said to the clerk. “Any special brand, sir?” The greatest pistol shot in the world thought a moment. “It says ‘Puppies Bark for It’ on the box,” said Walter Mitty.

His wife would be through at the hairdresser’s in fifteen minutes’ Mitty saw in looking at his watch, unless they had trouble drying it; sometimes they had trouble drying it. She didn’t like to get to the hotel first, she would want him to be there waiting for her as usual. He found a big leather chair in the lobby, facing a window, and he put the overshoes and the puppy biscuit on the floor beside it. He picked up an old copy of Liberty and sank down into the chair. “Can Germany Conquer the World Through the Air?” Walter Mitty looked at the pictures of bombing planes and of ruined streets.

. . . “The cannonading has got the wind up in young Raleigh, sir,” said the sergeant. Captain Mitty looked up at him through tousled hair. “Get him to bed,” he said wearily, “with the others. I’ll fly alone.” “But you can’t, sir,” said the sergeant anxiously. “It takes two men to handle that bomber and the Archies are pounding hell out of the air. Von Richtman’s circus is between here and Saulier.” “Somebody’s got to get that ammunition dump,” said Mitty. “I’m going over. Spot of brandy?” He poured a drink for the sergeant and one for himself. War thundered and whined around the dugout and battered at the door. There was a rending of wood and splinters flew through the room. “A bit of a near thing,” said Captain Mitty carelessly. ‘The box barrage is closing in,” said the sergeant. “We only live once, Sergeant,” said Mitty, with his faint, fleeting smile. “Or do we?” He poured another brandy and tossed it off. “I never see a man could hold his brandy like you, sir,” said the sergeant. “Begging your pardon, sir.” Captain Mitty stood up and strapped on his huge Webley-Vickers automatic. “It’s forty kilometers through hell, sir,” said the sergeant. Mitty finished one last brandy. “After all,” he said softly, “what isn’t?” The pounding of the cannon increased; there was the rat-tat-tatting of machine guns, and from somewhere came the menacing pocketa-pocketa-pocketa of the new flame-throwers. Walter Mitty walked to the door of the dugout humming “Aupres de Ma Blonde.” He turned and waved to the sergeant. “Cheerio!” he said. . . .

Something struck his shoulder. “I’ve been looking all over this hotel for you,” said Mrs. Mitty. “Why do you have to hide in this old chair? How did you expect me to find you?” “Things close in,” said Walter Mitty vaguely. “What?” Mrs. Mitty said. “Did you get the what’s-its-name? The puppy biscuit? What’s in that box?” “Overshoes,” said Mitty. “Couldn’t you have put them on in the store?” ‘I was thinking,” said Walter Mitty. “Does it ever occur to you that I am sometimes thinking?” She looked at him. “I’m going to take your temperature when I get you home,” she said.

They went out through the revolving doors that made a faintly derisive whistling sound when you pushed them. It was two blocks to the parking lot. At the drugstore on the corner she said, “Wait here for me. I forgot something. I won’t be a minute.” She was more than a minute. Walter Mitty lighted a cigarette. It began to rain, rain with sleet in it. He stood up against the wall of the drugstore, smoking. . . . He put his shoulders back and his heels together. “To hell with the handkerchief,” said Waker Mitty scornfully. He took one last drag on his cigarette and snapped it away. Then, with that faint, fleeting smile playing about his lips, he faced the firing squad; erect and motionless, proud and disdainful, Walter Mitty the Undefeated, inscrutable to the last.


Here’s the link to the playlist with the entire move adapted from this short story, compiled from Huilifoj’s posts.   In the Hollywood world of remakes, Mike Myers, is apparently having a go at this one which makes me sad for the legacy of Walter Mitty.  Just watch Love Guru if you disagree with me.  Anyway, enjoy the old one before it is mutiliated by Dr. Evil.

Next Page »