“I could never be with someone who has a boat,” and other wisdom from Nora Ephron

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I’ve always been a nostalgic person. History and memories. Anything pertaining to the concept of “yesteryear” or “yore.” Photo albums. “Remember that time…?”

You get the idea.

Lately, the nostalgia seems to exist at a finer point. I suppose the reason has something to do with age, with this next decade of life moving me towards something new. With each phase, I look back on the past with new perspective. “A function of the human condition,” I think, is an accurate description of this phenomenon.

How I experience this with movies has always been different; where the cycles of life run long, my experiencing the art of film has always evolved quickly.

My feelings on some movies will never change. I’m pretty confident that I will always love certain films in exactly the same way with exactly the same love that I did when I first watched them. St. Elmo’s Fire. Meet Me in St. Louis. Rear Window. How to Marry a Millionaire. Victor/Victoria. Close Encounters. The Matrix. Singles. 10 Things I Hate About You. Interstellar. Birdman. Moonlight. E.T. It’s a Wonderful Life.

But for most movies, my perception is fluid. A movie I loved at first watch might not do much for me now, and vice versa. Some movies I love and then hate and then love again. Some movies that I feel “meh” about initially might inspire joy upon a later viewing. Desperately Seeking Susan actually gets better every time I watch it, and I loved it from the first watch.

I was thinking about this recently while watching You’ve Got Mail. It’s a film that’s oddly polarizing, despite the fun rom-com quality. Some people love it, and some people hate it. Mindy Kahling, for example, loves it so much that she’s written about it in her books, discussed it in articles, tweeted about it, and used its themes in her TV show. Her friends threw her a You’ve Got Mail-themed holiday party last year. I’m with you on this one, Mindy: You’ve Got Mail FTW. But I’ve only come back around to loving it again in the past few years.

My first viewing of You’ve Got Mail was with my friend Claire in a theater in Pennsylvania in late 1998. E-mail was still a novel concept. Only a year earlier, I received my very first brand-new, shiny, and untarnished e-mail addresses (I still have my Hotmail account because, you know, nostalgia.) We were all still getting those AOL discs in the mail. It was exciting. It’s perhaps a trite way to boil it down, but the idea of sending a letter or a note or a message in real-time was cool in 1998. It was modern. It was hip and happening. Before it evolved into the stressful, overwhelming, occasionally nausea-inducing form of communication that it is, e-mail was fun.

Nora Ephron, who wrote and directed the film, was undeniably gifted at tapping into underlying social and cultural guts of America. When discussing her work, a lot of attention is paid to her rom-coms. But in that focus, a superficial layer is added to her career that’s unfair to her incredible body of work. Her background as a writer was in journalism and activism, after all. She had a degree in political science. Her first job was as an intern at the White House. When she couldn’t get a writing job at Newsweek because she was a woman, she participated in a class-action lawsuit against the magazine and then wrote a book about it. She wrote blistering satire. She had no fear. She was far more than “just” a writer of rom-coms. And what she created in rom-coms held deeper anyway. You’ve Got Mail was no exception.

In the late 90s, everyone was convinced that Y2K was bringing the kind of apocalypse that would have us all standing in bread lines or fighting our neighbors for potatoes. Needless to say, it was a time of change, both anticipated and immediate. Nora Ephron was one of those writers who could nail down an issue and write it to precise clarity, and You’ve Got Mail was the perfect backdrop for this exposition. It wasn’t just about technology, although that was certainly a central theme. It was also about the evolving landscape of dating, academia, writing, corporate America, and the changing values of Americans at the time. Loosely using the construct of the 1940 Ernst Lubitsch film, The Shop Around the Corner, Nora Ephron wove the dialogue with both feel-good ease and subtle discomfort. It’s a movie about change in every single frame.

But Karen! (you might be saying). Joe Fox was such a jerk in that movie!

Sure he was. Or was he?

Aaron probably said it best when he stated “I didn’t like it the first time I saw it. Mostly because it was jarring seeing Hanks play such a douche.”

The brilliance of You’ve Got Mail in a nutshell. Tom Hanks playing a little moral ambiguity hit the mark. It caused discomfort. Enough so that as a viewer, you might spend the entirety of the film wondering why you like Joe Fox so much. Is it because Tom Hanks is playing the character, or is it because the character is written so well? Or is it because he has delightful chemistry with Meg Ryan, who expresses so expertly the part of us who looks back nostalgically on the time when things were “better” while understanding that change is inevitable? Ultimately, you like him because he’s really not a douche at all.

You’ve Got Mail is rounded out with a crackerjack cast, that includes the likes of Jean Stapleton, Greg Kinnear, Parker Posey, Steve Zahn, Dabney Coleman, and Dave Chappelle, written into a terrific supporting cast of lovable, oddball characters. This is where the rom-com part of the movie really works. I’d like to hang out with them at the book store, on the streets of NYC, at the café, in the apartment, on the boat. And isn’t that just what we look for in this type of film? A group of characters to love and revisit from time to time, playing out a story with a satisfying, heart-warming conclusion? It is in my book.

If you don’t agree with me, send me an e-mail.

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“No. That’s not true. That’s impossible!”

that's impossibleActually, Luke, it’s not only possible, but it’s accurate.

We are almost out of Q and A material to present on Wednesdays.

And we’re on a roll here. We want to present new content as often as possible.

If you could take a moment to drop us a comment and let us know what sort of material you might like to see on our site, we’d be grateful. Would you like to see reviews of new films by Karen? She lives in Los Angeles, after all, and sees new movies on pretty much the day they open. Would you like Greg to recommend the best of the most obscure films he discovers on late-night trips to Netflixville? What about Aaron? He’s always looking for something to keep him busy.

The way we see it, this site is for you. If we’re not presenting content that’s appealing to our readers, then it isn’t much fun for us. Let us know what you’re interested in!

In our bonus content this week, Greg gets even with Aaron, Karen tries very hard not to hurt Greg’s feelings, and Greg has a bone to pick with the Academy Awards!

Remember several weeks ago when Greg answered a frustrating question from Aaron about remakes? Well, Greg turned the tables on Aaron. Greg asks: Since you challenged me/pissed me off with the “what movie, if you remade it, would you remake and what would you change?” question, I’m throwing it right back at you.

It was a hard question. So hard, in fact, that Aaron had to cheat to answer it: “I posed this question to Greg because I was honestly intrigued by what his response might be. It didn’t occur to me that he would throw the question right back to me, and now I wish I hadn’t asked it. Because this question is very, very difficult to answer.

But not because I can’t come up with a good movie that could use a remake. It’s difficult to answer because. . . I’m not crazy about remakes. As a general rule. The trend in recent years (especially in the horror genre) of remaking classic films is a sign, to me, that Hollywood is becoming devoid of creativity.

With that said, there are three remakes that immediately come to mind as three films that I really, really, really, really love. If a person had anything negative to say about The Magnificent Seven (the 1960 remake of Seven Samurai, not the 2016 remake of, well, The Magnificent Seven), I might consider not being friends with them anymore. The 2007 version of 3:10 to Yuma, briefly, gave me hope that quality westerns (my favorite genre) were making a comeback. And I also consider a quiet, little film that he made in the late 1980’s called Always very close to being my absolute favorite Steven Spielberg movie ever.

It’s possible that the average film-goer didn’t even realize those three movies were remakes until I, just this second, told them. And that’s kind of my point. These are remakes of films that completely flew under the radar and deserve a second look by modern audiences from filmmakers that chose these projects because they really love the originals. Why make a remake of a movie that people still watch?

So. . . if I were to remake any movie, it would have to be a small, obscure film that nobody really paid much attention to in the first place. Something that I connected with personally. Something that isn’t being shown on AMC or premium movie channels six times a week. The smartest remakes, I think, pull attention back to the original film.

harold lloydIt would be quite fun, though, to find an actor with incredible physical capabilities and then cast him in a shot-by-shot reconstruction of anything by Harold Lloyd. I’m thinking, in particular, Safety Last.”

Aaron posed the following question to Karen: Think of a genre that you don’t normally enjoy, but then come up with three movies in that genre that are exceptions to the rule.

Karen responds: “Of all of the genres of all of the films in all of the places in the world, I gotta go with horror here. Greg will disown me, I’m sure, but it’s just never been my jam. I just can’t let go of them. I stew, I fret, I consider, I worry. I take all of the fun out of it for myself. And that’s really too bad, because there are some great horror films to enjoy.

Perhaps as a function of age, or maybe a perceived renaissance in horror film-making, a few newer horror films come to mind as exceptions. IT (2017), A Quiet Place (2018), and Annihilation (2018) – these are fantastic. There’s a different feel to new horror and it allows viewers like me to enjoy them more without taking away from the die-hard admirers of the genre.

leviathanLooking back, movies like Leviathan were what drew me into horror as a kid. Anything with a science-fiction bend, and you had me. Anything with a title that included ‘children’, ‘corn’, or ‘Chuckie’ was a big nope for me.”

And, finally, Greg answered a three-part question from Aaron: Do you follow the Oscars?

“Yes! Is that it? Watch the closed-ended questions Aaron! Lol. . . I’m kidding. . .

In fact, I’ve been doing a bragging-rights pool for years, and it has carried over into work. Even Karen has participated for the last few years. I used to have an Oscar party during which I made my famous nacho cheese-and-chili dip, and invited my fellow nerds to watch and enjoy, but it got to be a lot of work and I’ve already established that I’m growing increasingly lazy over the years. In truth, I don’t reckon I’ve missed the Oscars, or the Golden Globes, for that matter, since the late 80’s or early 90’s. Even the one in 2001 or 2002 or somewhere in there that was nearly four-and-a-half hours long.”

Do they have much bearing on your movie-watching habits?

“Not at all, actually, except I do make an effort after the nominations are announced to try and see as many of the Best Picture noms as I can, so I can have, at least, a clue of what’s going on. Otherwise, I watch the things that look interesting to me.”

Think of two movies that were not nominated, but you believe should have been. What Oscars should they have been nominated for?

“Sorry, Aaron, but I’m going to cheat a tad on this one. Well, sort of. Can I instead suggest movies that were nominated and should have won, but did not? Good. That’s what I’ll do. Okay, look – I’m not meaning to disrespect this process, but the list of movies the three of us have seen spans into the thousands, I’m certain. But two Spielberg movies and one Rob Reiner movie stand out as big huge snubs (since I’ve dodged your question a bit, I’ll throw in a bonus flick). E.T. lost to Ghandi, Saving Private Ryan lost to Shakespeare in Love, and A Few Good Men lost to whatever the hell won that year. Unforgiven, sure. . . give it to Clint Eastwood. Honestly, I don’t recall what won that year – call it an educated guess. But E.T. – they say it was Spielberg’s trademark sentimentality that blew it for him. What the hell? How fair is that? If you don’t like his sentimentality, don’t nominate him. But don’t criticize him for making movies that make people run the gamut of emotions inside of two hours. Saving Private Ryan losing to Shakespeare in Love? Really? They say it was Harvey Weinstein’s power, influence, and his aggressive, yet masterful, marketing campaign that ‘earned’ this lackluster turd of a movie its win. How does the Academy like Weinstein now? Hmmm?. . . Too soon?”oscars

Well, that’s it for this week, everyone. What are your thoughts? Is there an Oscar-nominated film that you believe should have won? What movie would you like to see remade? Have you seen Leviathan? That shit was scary.

Be sure to check in on Friday! Karen will be presenting her second solo entry, an article about a film inspired by The Breakfast Club, our first official Movie of the Month! We hope you enjoy it!

Aaron, Greg, and Karen

Blaze of Glory

On the first day of August, in 1990, the summer between my 8th-grade year and high school, Morgan Creek Productions released Young Guns II, a (perhaps) unnecessary sequel to Young Guns, which had been released two years prior. As a fan of Westerns, I was also a big fan of the original. I was anxiously awaiting the release of this movie, in no small part to the fact that the sequel was rated PG-13 (as opposed to the R-rating of the original), which meant that I could actually get into the theaters and see it.

young guns II

Alas, I was unable to get to the theaters and see the film for many, many weeks into its theatrical release. And my anticipation for seeing the movie was at an “I’m about to burst” level of excitement by the time I actually did. Mind you, this had nothing whatsoever to do with anything I had heard about the film (in fact, many people had already told me that it wasn’t as good as the original– those people are wrong). It had nothing to do with the time I had spent psyching myself up for the experience with an interminable wait (it might have gone second-run dollar show before I actually found the time). My excitement for this particular movie was because the original soundtrack had been released and made available several weeks prior. It was awesome. And I had pretty well already worn out the cassette tape I had purchased from incessantly rewinding my Walkman just to hear “Bang A Drum” again.

The soundtrack album (entitled Blaze of Glory) was the first solo project for the lead singer of rock band Bon Jovi. At this particular stage in my life, my love for Bon Jovi had no boundaries. We didn’t really listen to rock music as I was growing up because my father was opposed to it. Radios in our home mostly played country and gospel. But, in 1984, my parents divorced, Dad moved out, and my mother, who was not such a prude about rock-and-roll (provided it wasn’t tasteless, or vulgar) broke out the good records. The things she liked: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Journey, doo-wop from the 1950’s.soundtrack

At this time in music history, pop metal acts like Bon Jovi were ubiquitious on the radio. There wasn’t a single radio station in town that wasn’t playing Bon Jovi. Or Def Leppard. Or “Oh, my God, look what the cat dragged in…”, a song which prompted pre-adolescent air guitarists to jump on the couch with arm pinwheels that would put Pete Townshend to shame. This music was popular. It was everywhere. It was Heaven.

I was in fifth grade when I fell completely in love with “Living On A Prayer”. I’m still not sure why, in retrospect. It’s not as if a ten-year-old really has the life experience to get a whole lot out of the anthemic blue-collar call to forget everything but love that this song represented. But that song caused me to spend meager allowances on a cassette tape of Slippery When Wet instead of comic books, and that was HUGE! In school, I actually now had a musical interest that my peers shared. All the boys liked Bon Jovi because they wanted the cute girls to talk to them. All the cute girls liked Bon Jovi because Jon was pretty (though I was privy many times to arguments that claimed Richie was the prettier one). I liked them because “Living On A Prayer” made me feel something that I didn’t yet understand, but somehow knew was important nonetheless.

New Jersey followed, and I bought that, too. I was now more interested in Appetite For Destruction, which was tasteless and vulgar and had to be enjoyed in secret, but I still had a soft spot for good ol’ Bon Jovi. I actually saw the tour for that record (my first rock concert in an arena) and witnessed with my own two eyes, a stage platform get jammed at the show’s beginning, causing Jon to fall backwards into a hole in the stage. He was suave about it. Just climbed right out and started the first notes of “Lay Your Hands On Me” without missing a single beat. It was the very definition of “cool.”

There have been moments when I have been accused, even by my own wife, of being a music snob. To that, I say: I own way too many Bon Jovi records to be considered a snob of anything. And so we’re clear: I do own every record they have ever recorded (including that shitty one they did after Richie Sambora left and they didn’t have a regular guitarist yet). I’ve seen them live six times. I can quote, at will and verbatim, every lyric they have ever put on tape. I. Love. Bon Jovi.

If you’re waiting for an apology, you have come to the wrong place. I will begrudgingly admit that falling into a hole and climbing back out again is a damn fine metaphor for Jon’s entire career, but it doesn’t change how much I adore Keep The Faith.

I seem to have digressed.

The point is: the soundtrack to this movie is awesome. It is my personal pick for the greatest single movie soundtrack of all time. I love the movie, but I’ve only watched it once or twice. I’m not compelled to watch it like other westerns that I love and watch repeatedly. That soundtrack, though? I keep it in my car. So that it’s always within reach, should the need to hear “Miracle” arise.

There are a lot of great soundtracks. The soundtrack to The Crow comes immediately to mind. Pulp Fiction. Empire Records. Some of these soundtracks are even better than the movies they represent (like the Tom Petty soundtrack for She’s The One). But Blaze of Glory actually transcends the movie. A great honor since most of the record’s tracks don’t even appear in the film. This soundtrack does what others cannot: It functions as a great album when separated from the film. It simultaneously doesn’t sound like anything else Jon Bon Jovi has ever recorded while still managing to perfectly capture what Bon Jovi would sound like if they just said “to hell with this rock and roll nonsense, we wanna make concept operas about cowboys”. I do believe that, with enough repeat listens of this record, you don’t have to watch the movie at all. This soundtrack captures the movie and its spirit effortlessly.

It cannot be argued that a great soundtrack, the exact perfect choice of song in a particular scene or moment, can make even the most mediocre movie memorable. And I am aware that an entire discussion could be had on moments in movies like that alone. “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” in The Big Lebowski. “Stuck In The Middle With You” in Reservoir Dogs. “Time Is On My Side” in Fallen. “In Your Eyes” in Say Anything. All I’m saying is that, for me, this soundtrack does it better than most.
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If I’m watching Young Guns II and I don’t sing “Well, I’ve seen love come/I’ve seen it shot down/I’ve seen it die in vain” right along with Jon, then it’s because the kids are sleeping and my TV is on mute.

About this author
Aaron walks these streets. A loaded six-string on his back. He’s playing for keeps, because he might not make it back. He’s been everywhere. He’s been standing tall. He’s seen a million faces and he’s rocked them all. He’s a cowboy. On a steel horse he rides. And he’s wanted, wanted, dead or alive.

“You talkin’ to me?”

taxi driver

Well, no, Travis, not to you, specifically.

But we are talking to our readers, our friends who check out our blog.

Hello, friends. How is your week going?

This week, for our bonus content, we’re presenting more excerpts from our Q and A. Karen asks Aaron a question. She also asks Greg a question. And just to make sure Karen isn’t doing all the work, Greg asks Karen a question, too. The questions this week will, hopefully, let our readers know a little more about us. But all of them require a bit of background information.

Karen, first. Karen loves Wonder Woman. A lot. Greg asked Karen the following question: What is your favorite type of movie character and why? Paint me a portrait of what he/she looks like, and describe for me how he/she fits into the world, and tell me about his/her strengths, flaws, and ideals.

Karen responds: “Oh, you mean like Wonder Woman? IS THAT WHAT YOU MEANT, GREG?? No question — the strong, confident, ass-kicking, name-taking, uber-intelligent save-the-day women types are generally my favorites. They have been since I was a kid. But they have to be relatable. Everyday issues, problems, hardships, character flaws — these are necessary to balance out the perceived perfection of such a character. Otherwise there is no incentive to go along on the ride with her, whether to Themyscira, Berlin, the factory floor, deep space, or an FBI training facility.

I’m also gonna throw a 3a onto this one: Villains we love to hate. It’s perversely cathartic, watching them from a safe distance. J. K. Simmons’ Terrence Fletcher in Whiplash, any of Alan Rickman’s villains, Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, Cate Blanchett’s Hera, Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, Agent Smith in The Matrix, Lina Lamont in Singin’ In the Rain, anything Peter Lorre did where he played a villain, Misery’s Annie Wilkes, brilliantly portrayed by Kathy Bates. Lucy Liu’s O-Ren Ishii is a particular favorite of mine (from Kill Bill). They are often more enjoyable to watch on screen than their heroic counterparts.”

Greg next. Greg spent the better part of a whole year devoting his Facebook feed to a “Greg’s Top 100 Movies of All Time”. It was riveting and fun (and, honestly, part of the reason why Karen and Aaron asked him to participate in this blog). Karen asked him this: I enjoyed reading your 100 Favorite Films entries and appreciated the care and knowledge you crafted into them. What did you learn about yourself as a film lover from that process? Do you think your Top 10 will stand firm or has it already changed and why?

Greg said: “I love this question (and all the others as well, by the way). There would be some changes, but only minor ones. This is going to allow me to express something I’ve been wanting to express since day one on this project.

I forget the context in which I discussed this before, but I have been thinking of doing a follow-up list of ten or twenty movies that I’ve either seen since, or maybe didn’t think of for whatever reason the first time around, my own version of Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival. Having said this, I won’t divulge which movies exactly would appear, but I did mention to Aaron that the movie Chef would be in there somewhere, because of the overwhelming sense of positivity I feel whenever I watch it. Of all the movies I watch to love and love to watch, it’s those feel-good (not by way of Lifetime originals, but instead by way of straight-up, well-written, well-intentioned, Ferris-Bueller’y type movies) that truly inspire me to be my very best, whether at work, in my personal life, when I type this silliness I call ‘writing’, and any other facet of my life. I think when you’ve found that one thing that you love and do well, you latch onto it and do it the best you can. For me, it’s movies, which I’ve been fortunate enough to make a career out of. A close second is that whole writing thing, which, love my informal style or hate it, that’s how I do it, yo. . . Therefore, when I see those types of movies, like Chef, about someone who throws caution to the wind and marches to the beat of his or her own drummer, and ends up better because of it, well, man, I’m in. It’s why I feel okay writing exactly the way I want to write. Are my short stories (I write those too, Mr. Polk!) in the same style as my Facebook posts and this blog? Not at all. Well, not usually. But they could be if I wanted them to be, because I watch enough movies to know that I’m not going to be happy unless I do things the way I want to do them. (Wait. . . why am I still single again? What? I’m supposed to compromise? Dammit to hell. . .)

last flagWould my Top Ten change? Tough to say, Page. Tough to say. I recently watched Last Flag Flying, directed by Richard Linklater (to be fair, the fact that he directed slipped by me completely until the end credits – a rare dropping of the ball on my part, to be sure – but I was delighted when I saw his name on screen). It was one of the best dialogue-driven movies I’ve seen in a very long time, which, in the world of strong dialogue-writing, goes a very long way. Would it be in the revised Top Ten, or would it be in the Edmonds Overlooked Top 100 Film Festival? Again, tough to say, Page.”

And finally, Aaron. Aaron reads a lot. And always has. So much so that this fact stands out to Greg as one thing he truly remembers about Aaron from high school. Aaron might actually read more books in a month than he watches movies. Karen’s question to Aaron: Weighing in on Greg’s question about writing and film, what is your favorite movie adaptation of a written work and why?

Aaron responds: “This question is almost too easy to answer because my response was immediate with almost no hesitation. With that said, I’m cheating a little because I’m picking two adaptations for my answer. However, both adaptations are by the same screenwriter adapting works by the same novelist. So it’s not really cheating, right?

shawshankFrank Darabont’s screenplays for The Shawshank Redemption (which, in my opinion, should have won Best Picture that year) and The Green Mile are anomalies to me in the world of adaptation because they both simultaneously remain incredibly faithful to the source material while still expanding on it. I don’t think anything happens in either written work that doesn’t transpire in the screenplay, but Darabont manages to fill in some holes in both cases with the unspoken things we didn’t get to see in the original novels. As an example, Stephen King’s original novella (Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption) never leaves the prison. It is stated in the work that inmates become so institutionalized to being inmates that they cannot function in the real world upon release. But we never see evidence of this in the prose. It’s just out there as a statement of fact. Darabont’s screenplay has the luxury of leaving the prison and following a few characters into their release back into society. We see how they are institutionalized, how they adapt for functionality, how they struggle. (And while we’re on the subject of Darabont’s work, his adaptation of The Mist has a better ending than King’s original story.)

There are a couple of movies that I think are wonderful films, but horrible adaptations (such as One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest or The Lovely Bones), but that wasn’t the question, so I’ll stop there.”

Well, that’s it for this week. What say you? Leave us a comment! Tell us your favorite adaptation of a novel into a film. Don’t you think Greg should repost his top 100 so that everyone could see it? Isn’t Wonder Woman awesome?

Aaron will be back on Friday with new content inspired by our Movie of the Month (which is The Breakfast Club, don’t ya know?).

Greg, Aaron, and Karen

“If he gets up, we’ll all get up, it’ll be anarchy!”

We had many discussions about what movie to spotlight as our first “movie of the month”.

Do we recommend something that all three of us love and believe deserves more attention? Do we pick movies that are universally regarded as “great”?  How obscure, how bizarre, how old should we allow our first movie to be? The AFI list of 100 Greatest Movies Ever Made has Citizen Kane listed as their pick for the best film of all time. Should we start there?

Ultimately, we decided that for our first month in this format, we should pick a movie that has something for the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess, and the criminal in all of us:

breakfasT_club

Of the films in John Hughes’ incredible body of work, The Breakfast Club stands chief among them for its timelessness. The themes are just as relevant to teenagers today as they were to us back then.

breakfastThree Nerds’ selection, September 2018: The Breakfast Club (1985)
Who’s In It: Molly Ringwald, Emilio Estevez, Anthony Michael Hall, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, and Paul Gleason
What does everyone else say about it: Rotten Tomatoes score: 88% (critics), 92% (audience), IMDB user rating: 7.9 (out of 10)
Where you can see it: Amazon Video, Vudu, Sling, Google Play, deluxe 2-disc Criterion Collection

 

The Nerds Weigh In

Karen: I’m no different than most kids in our generation in that I learned some important life lessons from movies and books. They’ve provided me with a lot of light-bulb moments. Art has the power to move thought. I love that. The Breakfast Club offered this kind of experience. I’m not sure if I had already started to develop an idea of how powerfully negative stereotypes could be before I saw the film or not. But I do know that it hit me hard when I watched it. I saw myself in all of the characters and I got it. John Hughes had a way of making teen angst tangible.

Aaron: My feelings– not just on The Breakfast Club, but on the work of John Hughes in general– can be summed up most succinctly with two lines of dialogue from the very film we’re talking about today:

BRIAN: Did you know without trigonometry, there’d be no engineering?
JOHN: Without lamps, there would be no light!

If great teen-angst movies from the 80’s were the light, then John Hughes is, without question, the lamp. And seeing The Breakfast Club at such a young age is one of the reasons I ever wanted to be a writer in the first place.

Greg: I wrote a paper on this movie for a psych class in college. The subject of the paper was something along the lines of stereotypes. I used the film, in a few different sections of the essay, as an example of how stereotypes develop and how those stereotypes are perpetuated, much to the chagrin of those bearing the labels, through the eyes of those who cannot or do not choose to see beyond a person’s exterior. Deep, right? I’m pretty sure I got a C- on it. Stupid college. The point I was trying to make then, a point which I will attempt to articulate again here, is that TBC is a movie that reminds us all that people are not always who they seem, and that not everyone’s personality or disposition falls into a pre-defined bucket, labelled by persons of more authority than what we can hope to achieve ourselves. People have to look deeper than the surface. People have to see what’s inside, and the only way they can see is first to open their eyes, then maybe their minds. I know. . . all these years later, probably a C+ paper at best.

Lil Bit O Trivia – The Breakfast Club

rick moranis1. Rick Moranis was originally cast as the janitor. He was replaced by John Kapelos, after “creative differences” with Hughes. Apparently, Moranis wanted to play the part as an over-the-top Russian, complete with gold caps on his teeth and cartoonish accent. Some reports say that he even had a large ring of keys hanging from his belt that he would fondle provocatively as he spoke.

2. Molly Ringwald was asked at first to play Allison, but requested instead to play the role of Claire. Robin Wright, Jodie Foster, and Laura Dern are other actresses of note who also auditioned for the role of Claire. Nicolas Cage and John Cusack were both considered to play the role of John Bender, a role that was originally intended for Emilio Estevez (who, of course, eventually played Andrew). Nicolas Cage might have actually gotten the role, but his salary for appearing in the movie was considered too high.

3. The woman and child in the car with Brian during the movie’s opening scene? That’s Anthony Michael Hall’s actual mother and younger sister! John Hughes himself appears at the end of the film as Brian’s father.
Anthony michael hall mom and sister and John Hughes

4. “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds was written for the movie by producer Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff (guitarist and songwriter from The Nina Hagen Band). Billy Idol and Bryan Ferry were both offered the opportunity to record the song, but both turned it down. The song was eventually offered to Chrissie Hynde (of The Pretenders), who suggested Simple Minds. Her then husband (John Kerr) was the band’s singer. (Bonus: Billy Idol did actually end up recording this song as a bonus track for a Greatest Hits album)

benderbender

5. Judd Nelson reportedly remained in character as Bender for the entire shoot. This not only included wearing the clothes that he originally auditioned in, but included persistent taunting of Molly Ringwald. Protective of Ms. Ringwald, John Hughes fired Judd Nelson from the role. Stories on his rehiring conflict, however: some sources say that Ally Sheedy led the cast in convincing Hughes to keep him, and others say that it was Paul Gleason (the actor who plays Richard Vernon) who swayed the director’s wrath.

(Aaron Sidenote: As I uploaded that Bender photo, my wife is looking over my shoulder and she just said, “God, he was so hot!” I am not sure if she intended me to hear that or not. )

john bender

What say you, friends? What are your thoughts on this film?

 

“I’ve seen ‘The Exorcist’ about a hundred and sixty-seven times, and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it…”

Thanks for stopping by today. Did you see any good movies over the Labor Day weekend?

This month will mark the first month of our regular format. Remember our description of a cinematic rabbit hole? Well, that will start this week. This weekend, we’ll be spotlighting a “movie of the month”, a movie hand-selected by all 3 nerds to be our “theme” for the entire month. Our solo entries for the remainder of September will somehow relate to that movie. But since we’re wary of spoilers around here, we’re gonna make you check back on Friday to find out what that movie might be!

For today, we have more excerpts of our Q and A, and a special mention of something movie-related that happened on this day in history 67 years ago.

Today is Wednesday, September 5. This means that one of our favorite actors is celebrating his birthday! Can you guess who it is?

Here’s a few hints…

His first paid acting gig was for three episodes of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood in 1975 (though he was credited by his real name of Michael Douglas).

He starred in a short-lived sitcom called Working Stiffs in 1979 with Jim Belushi.

Any guesses?

Okay. We’ll make it easier.

He starred in Mr. Mom. He starred in Beetlejuice. He starred in Tim Burton’s 1989 version of Batman.

mrbeetlejuiceman

Michael Keaton was especially prolific in the 1990’s, starring in such films as My Life, The Paper, Multiplicity, Out of Sight, and Jackie Brown. He even took on the role of Batman a second time, in a movie probably most remembered for Michelle Pfeiffer’s depiction of Catwoman. His films run the gamut from comedies to dramas to horror films. He has voiced characters in animated films. He can seemingly do it all, including getting nominated for an Oscar for his understated performance in Birdman, or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).

Happy birthday to Michael Keaton!

michael keaton

Sound off in the comments and tell us what your favorite Michael Keaton film might be!

For this week’s excerpt from our Q and A, Greg and Aaron answer a question from Karen. Karen answers a question from Aaron.

We’ll start with Karen’s question. She asked her fellow nerds the following question: Why do you think film is so important?

GREG: “Call it a cliché, that’s fine – but I lose myself in the movies. Great escape, right? Movies, along with, to an only slightly-lesser degree music, transport me to a place far, far away from whatever the hell irks me on that particular day. Did I mention I’m evolving into a grouch as I grow older?

But truly, no matter what is happening on the outside, something exciting happens to me on the inside whenever I hit play on Netflix or Hulu or Amazon or HBOGo or Vudu or BluRay or DVD or VCR (yes, VCR, and no, I do not work for, nor am I shamelessly promoting Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBOGo, Vudu, BluRay, or whoever still makes VCR’s these days).

I can remember my older brothers and older sister (note: I am clearly identifying myself as the baby of the family, a sentiment I have milked since I learned how much affection I could get by milking it) being big influences on my movie watching habits. I’d be watching Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood on PBS, and an (older) sibling would change the channel to Real Genius, or WarGames. I’d protest at first because, dammit I’m the baby, and I should get what I want. But within minutes I’d marvel, and I really do remember this, at how friggin’ cool the movies my brothers and sister were watching. And part of it was, again, this is no joke, I did want to be cool like they were, so I wanted to do the things they were doing, but I also thought it was fun to enjoy a joke we were both in on together. Something about those childhood experiences drew me into that world, and something else about the nature of visual storytelling also compelled me at a very early age.

I come from a long line of master storytellers, my dad being perhaps one of the most enthusiastic (and long-winded, which proves something, I reckon, about heredity, though I’m not sure what) and engrossing storytellers I’ve ever met. His stories, coupled with those I was seeing in the movies with my brothers, with whom time was always short as I only saw them on the weekends, kinda sorta drew me further and further into that world. How can one story be told a hundred different ways? In the movies, of course. How can an emotion you can’t communicate effectively or, on occasion, maturely, present itself in a way you hadn’t considered before? In the movies, of course. So many times we see art imitate life, but never moreso than with the movies. As Philip Seymour Hoffman said in Magnolia, ‘They put those scenes in movies because they actually happen.’

Why are movies so important to me? I think I’ve given you about four different answers, I suppose. It’s a loaded question, Page. . . but a damn good one. I suppose I’d have to defer to Steve Martin in the movie Grand Canyon when he said to his friend, played by Kevin Kline, ‘That’s your problem, Mac, you haven’t seen enough movies. . . all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.’ I’m just lucky I had my brothers to thank for changing the channel from dreary old, yet positively-perfect Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood to something infinitely funnier, scarier, and sadder, like movies.”

AARON: “I have a background in theatre (playwrighting, acting, and directing), and one of the things that I have always loved about live performance is the fluid immediacy of it. No two performances of anything I have ever done has ever been exactly the same. Sometimes it’s in large ways (Oops! Carol forgot her lines again!) and sometimes in smaller ways (the table wasn’t placed exactly where it usually is and an actor has to take two extra steps to place his glass down). But it’s constantly evolving. Not-quite ready shows can become damn near perfect in the six weeks from open to close as the actors become more comfortable with their lines or blocking, as the kinks in the light cues get worked out. I once had to request an alternate version of a scene from a playwright because a contraption for a stage effect had been broken and could not be repaired in time for the show to resume between weekends.

This is not an option in film.

Yes, there are multiple takes. An editing crew goes through them. They select the best one. But, ultimately, what is selected is what audiences will be seeing for the rest of time. There’s no evolution. It’s permanent.

This, to me, is why film is so important: Every movie is a permanent record of the time it was made in.

You can track the history of the world and the changes in society by watching one movie in a particular genre from each decade from the 1920’s to the present. Special effects improve from the early days of spaceships on string to today’s CGI-driven extravaganzas. Comedy has evolved (you simply could not make a Mel Brooks film in today’s politically-correct atmosphere). Minorities are given more important roles. Those hairstyles and fashion in the 80’s!

Movies are an exceptional history lesson. One that doesn’t force you to trudge through a bland textbook.”

Karen was asked a similar question by Aaron. Why do you enjoy watching movies so much?

“I love art in pretty much any medium. It’s a source of total joy for me. Film is just slightly more tangible to me, the breadth of life imitated on screen as opposed to on a stage or on a wall or on a page (but only slightly).

There’s a feeling that I think almost every human connects to through art, whatever the source or level of skill or scale. It can propagate a slow slide into something that feels almost supernatural in its power to move the viewer from one reality to another. I love this experience. The click. The light bulb. The slow realization. The warm spread of feeling, whether positive or negative, in reaction to what I’m seeing on the screen. I live for this shit.

Every time I see a film, I experience something new. I discover something I didn’t see in myself before. This is rarely as apparent to me as when I’m watching foreign film, although domestic film is equally as effective. It’s just that immersing oneself in a completely different language and place and way of thinking about the world for a few hours has a way of opening up channels that are sometimes mired by the familiarity of one’s own reality.”

Film as a great escape. Film as the ultimate history lesson. Film as a means of finding yourself. Three different answers from three different people, and probably a million more if we took the time to ask everyone that we knew. And all of those answers are correct. That’s the beauty of the cinema: it’s something different for every one. But it unifies us as well.

Why is film important to you?

Be sure to check back in this Friday! Our Movie of the Month is sure to be a conversation starter.

Karen, Aaron, and Greg

Kismet

Hello, friends. We have a question for you.

What is the first movie you remember seeing? More specifically, what is the first movie you remember seeing in a movie theater?

That’s our theme for today’s entry, the final Friday entry for the month of August. We invite you to comment below and tell us about those films. Are they still well-loved movies for you?

That theme is not all we want to talk about today, however. We found another theme between us. And it happened quite by happenstance. Through the many discussions we three nerds have had about film in the time it took us to decide to follow through with this particular project, we discovered something that we did not know before. Something that would have a year ago seemed like a happy coincidence, but now seems like “a sign”. It’s a silly thing to even consider now, but, perhaps the universe is now telling us that we were always meant to one day join forces and create this blog.

By way of explaining exactly what we’re talking about, we submit this snippet from our team Q and A. Aaron asked Karen the following question: Think of a movie that you like because of the experience of watching it for the first time.

Karen’s answer made Greg and Aaron both pause for just a moment:

“You’re going to laugh. No, really. The first film I thought of was Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I’m not even kidding. Summer of 1991. I’m 12. A few months shy of 13. High school looms large and exciting and terrifying (but not for another year). I’m surrounded by my best friends on one of those star-lit, somewhat muggy, smell-of-the-fields-perfect Illinois summer nights. We’re at the Harvest Moon Drive-In running around, getting into trouble, crossing the highway for Pizza Hut, lying on blankets. Watching the opening night of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I’ve always been a sucker for historical (-ish) fiction on the screen, but add a cheesy love story to that? AND Kevin Costner? My 12-year old brain, surrounded by my friends on one of those perfect Illinois nights could barely comprehend how full of joy I was. Full of pre-teen angst, too. . . sure. But also, so much joy. And I will always have a soft spot for that film, forevermore.”

Greg and Aaron both loved this answer. They are both nostalgic and fond of this movie, too. But. . . they were both also there. At the Harvest Moon Drive-In. On the opening night of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Which, we suppose, is not so odd in a small town, but this factoid becomes prescient for us now because Aaron hadn’t met either one of the others yet.

This theme, this idea that we were meant to do this together really began to formulate for Greg while he answered the questions in our group Q and A. It seems that, totally and completely on accident, we had all asked (essentially) the same question of the others. These questions all rotated around the idea of trying to remember the first movies we had ever seen. It seemed to Greg (and we’ll allow him to expound on this idea more in his answers) that something cosmic was pointing all of us in the same direction.

Aaron asked Greg the same question that he asked Karen above. Greg’s response:

“Easy. Gotta be E.T.. . . No, wait. . . Raiders of the Lost Ark. . . No, wait. . . Jurassic Park. . . No, wait. . . E.T.. Seriously: E.T..

In 2016, I challenged myself to complete a Greg’s Top 100 movie countdown that would span the entire year. The whittling-down process consumed me for the first two months of the year, but, in my mind, I knew that E.T. would be right up there in the Top Three. The reason was, and still is, simple: E.T. was the first movie I saw in the movie theater. At the tender age of five. Even today, I have vivid memories of laughing, crying, being terrified (that damned cornfield scene. . . ) and insert any other emotion here. Other early memories of movies are checkered and scant at best, but I’ve never forgotten how I felt about seeing that little Play-doh-ey guy running around and then leaving us forever. . . little bastard. Since then, I go into every movie I see for the first time looking to feel something. . . anything. . . an emotion different than the one I first entered the theater or living room feeling. ‘That’s all I have to say about that,’ said Forrest Gump.”

Later in the interview, Aaron asked Greg the following question, a question that Greg had, by accident, already answered: What is the very first movie that you remember seeing?

Greg again: “Well, shit. I guess I need to read these questions through before I begin to answer them, because I already answered this one at the beginning. However, I will add another early movie memory to fulfill the requirement of answering the question. I am a horror lover through and through. I’d call it a guilty pleasure, but I don’t feel guilty about scanning Netflix in the wee hours to find some schlock that I can pick apart ’cause it just ain’t scary enough. So. . . my mom dropped my brother and I off at Wing’s Cinema in Rantoul, IL when I was probably 6 or 7. He was a teenager. It was a Disney movie, and it was called Something Wicked This Way Comes. It was a film based on a Ray Bradbury novel about a couple of kids who visit a traveling carnival that has elephants and clowns and carousels, and on the side, it sells dreams for a stiff price. Yeah, there are evil spirits and nightmares and spiders. . . big ones. . . So, that night, and for about two weeks later, I checked under my bedsheets to make sure there were no tarantulas crawling around. I didn’t want to see a single one, let alone about a hundred! Oh, remember when I said this was a Disney movie? Yeah, I wasn’t kidding. Dudes…Disney went through a dark period in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I’m tellin’ ya’.”

Imagine Greg typing away that answer on his laptop, in his garage with a Captain and Coke. Now imagine the look on his face when he opened up the email from Karen that contained the following question: What is the first film you remember seeing in a movie theater? What is the first film you remember seeing in a movie theater that you loved? How do you think these films have affected the way you see the world?

Greg’s response: “I’m going to make a small joke that I feel is amusing and not intended to upset the other authors of this blog in the slightest: Clearly, all three of us should’ve read all of the questions and answers posed to each of us by each of the others before proceeding – ha! Aaron has noted that we all have a lot going on and we all are still swimming in the murky waters of starting up this endeavor, but, on a different note, all of our questions were rooted in a certain similarity that suggests the three of us were all on the same page about what this whole thing should be about, which further suggests that we were all three destined to do this together at some point in our lives – better now when we all still have our wits about us as we enter into our late 20s. . .”

Keeping in mind everything you’ve already read, imagine the look on Greg’s face when his answers were completed and submitted and then we discovered the little tidbit about all of us being at the Harvest Moon Drive-In at the exact same time a good year before we could all three meet each other right and proper. A thought that Greg already had in the back of his mind, that he had articulated and typed for one and all to see, was confirmed. The word for that is. . . we think . . . kismet.

More on that in a moment. Greg’s answer continues:

“Nevertheless, I will try and answer, with slightly different sentimentality, especially in part three of this question.

E.T. is the first film I remember seeing in the theater, and it impacted me profoundly. As I said when Aaron asked something similar, I can remember running the gamut of emotions during that in-house theater experience.

Because I felt so wildly ‘all over the place’ emotionally, I can vividly remember absolutely loving this experience and this movie thoroughly, so much so that it wound up at the top of my Top 100 countdown that I spent the better part of 2016 hammering out. Couple this with the fact that I spent a good chunk of the limited time I spent with my siblings watching movies that I wouldn’t have otherwise watched, E.T. was an excellent start to a hobby that ended up being a career for me. So there!

Part three, though, is an interesting follow up. How do movies change the way I see the world? I think I would have to dovetail a bit onto something I said in another question – there’s a reason somebody made these movies or wrote these screenplays – because, especially in the dramas and slice-of-life ‘essays’ for lack of a better term, these things do tend to actually happen once in awhile, and the writers’ and directors’ perspectives on these issues do much to lend us our own perspectives, especially when we are in need of perspective.

Greg too lost on the silver screen? Too slipped on a banana peel (Eckhart, Batman, 1989). Thinks too much that life is like a movie? Well, how is this different than those who lose themselves in music, or books, or stamp collecting, or model building, or video gaming, or sports, or lawn work, or chess? They are all escapes, no? I actually wish to modify what I said earlier about movies being the great escape. Movies are MY great escape, same as sports are for some, painting is for others, and so on.”

Aaron answered this question from Karen as well:

“Before I answer the question, an anecdote: Back in the early 1990’s, I saw a movie at a theater on the University of Illinois campus. I believe it was called The Thunderbird Cinema. Almost as soon as I set foot into the auditorium, I remembered seeing Fantasia there. There were wall adornments and decoration to the proscenium area that just gave me almost instant deja vu. But it wasn’t just Fantasia. I had memories of The Sword in the Stone and The Fox and the Hound as well. Most specifically, I recalled lying on the ground in the aisle and watching The Fox and the Hound as it loomed above my head larger than life. It was an odd memory to have because these three Walt Disney cartoons are movies that, up to that point, I had no real memory of ever having seen from beginning to end.

Later, I asked my mother about these memories. And she confirmed for me that my family frequented this movie theater when I was younger because, during the summer, when classes were not in session, they often did family films for $1. She even confirmed the memory of lying on the ground (apparently, we had been outside at a public petting zoo for a good portion of the day and I had reported not feeling well). So. . . there you have it . . . I guess discounted Disney movies are the first films I remember seeing in the theater (incidentally, The Sword in the Stone has, over time, become one of my most favorite animated Disney films), even though I was a teenager before I actually remembered it.

But. . . to give an honest answer to the question. The first movie I vividly remember seeing in theaters is Return of The Jedi. 1983. I was six. We saw it at Urbana Cinema (which used to be The Princess and, also, showed movies for a dollar). I had already seen the other two films, and was pretty well consumed by them, but the third film in the trilogy was the first one that I didn’t see on television. That I saw while it was still new. While other kids were still waiting to be allowed to see it. It was a big moment for me.”

As of this writing, it has not been confirmed if either Karen or Greg were there watching Return of the Jedi as well.

But, man, what if they were?

One more thing before we sign off today: we’re not sure that we truly believe that something cosmic has a hand in our endeavor. But it sure feels like it sometimes. And we know this: We’ve worked hard on this blog. We’ve had some great discussions. We’ve learned some things about each other (for example, in spite of our initial beliefs, Aaron is far more pushy than Karen). We’ve continued to nurture decades-old friendships in the name of what we love. We have inspired one another, and together, we have created something that is meaningful to us.

We are now a month into our project, and we’re having fun. It seems appropriate to take a moment to thank you for that. For coming along for the ride.

Be sure to check in next week for our first “Movie of the Month” and take a moment to sound off in the comments! What was the first movie you remember seeing in the theater?

Karen, Aaron, And Greg