Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Double Feature: Michelle Pfieffer and Al Pacino

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.*

If you've been paying attention around here lately, you know that I adore Michelle Pfeiffer. She's likely my favorite actor, hands down. Al Pacino, however, also sits right there at the top of my personal pantheon. So it's no surprise that their two film collaborations are extremely special to me. They first starred together in Scarface (1983), Brian De Palma's wildly ambitious and searing critique of power, avarice, and the American Dream, as told through the rise and fall of a drug kingpin. That film belongs to Pacino, with Pfeiffer in a smaller, yet crucially important role. Eight years later, they shared the screen again in Frankie and Johnny (1991), Garry Marshall's warm, tender, and honest look at two damaged people falling in love. This time, Michelle's Frankie is the film's real focal point, with Al's Johnny very much supporting her throughout.

It's interesting to note the differences in their careers at the time they made each film together. In 1983's Scarface, Pacino was the legend, long established as one of the finest film actors of his generation, if not the very best. By the time he played Cuban gangster Tony Montana, he had already solidified his reputation with a string of spectacular performances in 1970s films like The Godfather (I and II), Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon. Enter, a relatively unknown and heartbreakingly beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer, as Tony's girlfriend, Elvira Hancock. Pfeiffer was fresh off a critically panned sequel to Grease, (unfairly criticized, to my way of thinking) her first big starring role. She was young and hungry, ready to show she had more to offer. Elvira became the role that changed her career--it made her a star and also announced her as a prodigious acting talent. Unfortunately too many critics and fans only noticed her astonishing beauty.

Skip ahead eight years to 1991's Frankie and Johnny: Pacino was still a star, but one who struggled in the '80s with a series of subpar films (Revolution, anyone?), and dropped out of movies for five years. His comeback began alongside the scorching hot Ellen Barkin in Sea of Love (1989), and by Frankie and Johnny he was on a roll again. Pfeiffer, on the other hand, went from a near-unknown to a superstar in her own right by the time she played Frankie. She spent the '80s methodically building an impressive body of work in films like Tequilla Sunrise, Married to the Mob, and The Witches of Eastwick. This led to her breakout role as Susie Diamond in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989). By that point, her talents and versatility were finally being appreciated, after years of having been dismissed as just another pretty face.

In Scarface, Pacino is all manic energy, madly ingesting mounds of cocaine one minute, sulking like a child the next, all while dropping F-bombs like they're going out of style. As the icy trophy wife Elvira, Pfeiffer counters Pacino's raving lunacy with a controlled, subtly nuanced performance. Elvira becomes the film's lone voice of reason amidst all of the insanity and chaos of Tony's drug empire. Pacino's lines in the film are absurdly memorable—"Say hello to my little friend" tops among them—but its Pfeiffer who sneaks in one quotable sly dig after another. From "Can't you stop saying fuck all the time?" to "I don't fuck around with the help" to "You're always hungry. You should be starving" to "Don't call me 'baby.' I'm not your 'baby'", Elvira is merciless, verbally eviscerating Tony over the course of the film. He's a terrible husband, and Elvira's not much better as a wife, but she's at least aware of how screwed up their relationship is and won't be silenced about it.

The animosity that develops over the course of the film between Elvira and Tony feels palpably real. He looks at her with contempt, she at him with total disdain. Pfeiffer is pure ice cold white gold, shooting daggers with her eyes (those eyes!) when not verbally berating most everyone around her, especially Tony. For Pacino's part, the hammy acting is a facade, built by a small, selfish man who wants the world to think he's the most powerful person alive. He's faking it until he can make it and Elvira calls him on his bullshit over and over.

Pfeiffer has said in interviews that working Pacino in each film was a vastly different experience. He was playing a metaphorical, toxic male monster in Scarface, and some of that method acting carried over onto the set. He was in character, distant and difficult. Pfeiffer was playing a woman who's tough exterior masked an inner turmoil and depression that threatened to overcome her at any moment. It's no wonder it was a tough shoot for her. Talking with Darren Aronofsky for Interview earlier this year, she said of the film,
“How’d it happen?” she said of her Scarface performance. “I’m very willful, you know. I’m a survivor. It’s in my nature. I don’t look so tough, but I am. And I think I was able to hide behind the tough exterior of that character, who was just sort of tuned out and tuned off, drugged.” She continued, “I can tell you that I was terrified. And it was a six-month shoot I think. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and I were really the only females. It was a boys’ club. And it was also the nature of the relationship, for Tony Montana to be very dismissive of my character. So I would go to sleep some nights crying.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the warmth and tenderness of Frankie and Johnny. It's like comparing night and day when looking at each Pfeiffer-Pacino film. As Johnny, Pacino is a man who's lived through some extremely difficult times, including a prison sentence. Yet he's emerged from it all a new person, resolved to be more present to his life and the people in it, to simply be, to let the wonder and awe of the world wash over him. Consequently, when he falls hard for Pfeiffer's Frankie the first time they meet, he never questions it; instead, he pursues her with all his heart, unashamed to express his true feelings to her, repeatedly, despite her reticence. It's one of Pacino's most soulful performances. He's simply magnificent here.

Pfeiffer is the true star of the film though, turning in what might be the most exceptional work of her career. There was some doubt when she was cast—yet again, critics said she was "too pretty" to play a depressed and long-suffering diner waitress, as if life only hurts average looking people. Pfeiffer made the criticism look absurd she delivered what I've long believed to be her best performance. Frankie has been through enough emotional turmoil in her day that she's basically forgone a love life as a means of self-protection. She simply can't face the possibility of being hurt again.

The verbal jousts between Frankie and Johnny are delightful, full of heart and soul, opening windows into each character's inner conflicts and emotions. Contrast that with the mean spirited antagonism between Elvira and Tony, and you have two distinctly different pairings between Pfeiffer and Pacino. The drastic differences in each film showcases both actors' unparalleled range and versatility. Not only do they have terrific chemistry in each film, but that spark is more than just a physical attraction; their words and inflections and facial expressions combine to form fully realized portraits, one of a couple in a deteriorating sham of a marriage and another experiencing the emotional twists and turns of falling in love.

Johnny is compassionate and patient, but he's also not shy about telling Frankie that he can wait for her because fate has brought them together and will keep them together. Frankie's reactions to Johnny's sunny optimism are usually cynical and sarcastic—"I'm a BLT down sort of person, and I think you're looking for someone a little more pheasant under glass." Pfeiffer is brilliant here, from her nervous rebukes of Johnny's affections, to her eye-rolling dismissals of anything remotely sweet or heartfelt, to the moments when she blows up at Johnny because she simply can't hold in her anguish anymore.

The film carefully teases out elements of Frankie's backstory that allow us to understand why she struggles to believe that love is an option for her. Then, towards the end of the film, Pfeiffer delivers a tour-de-force monologue that lays bare all of Frankie's fears and anxieties, as well as her traumatic history with an abusive ex. The film was building to this moment; every subtle and lived-in acting choice Pfeiffer makes up to that point helps us understand and connect with Frankie more by the time the dam finally bursts, and the tears start gushing. Pacino is wonderful in the scene as well, being supportive, allowing Pfeiffer to let it all out, just holding her and telling her he'll be with her when bad things happen from now on. It's a multiple-tissue box kind of scene, and it wrecks me every single time I watch.

In two films together, eight years apart, Michelle and Al were able to showcase not only their unmatched versatility but also their deep emotional connection as actors that allows us to believe in them as a couple. They each share an important physical characteristic that makes audiences believe in their performances: big, beautiful, and expressive eyes. You can read their characters' thoughts—whether it's Elvira or Frankie or Tony or Johnny—simply by watching Michelle's and Al's eyes. They do more acting with their eyes than some actors do with their entire bodies. When they look at each other with anger or loathing in Scarface, we believe they mean it; when they stare into each other's souls in Frankie and Johnny, we see the tentative early stages of love between them, and we believe it. Hopefully, some day soon, we'll be treated to another memorable onscreen pairing of Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino, and witness their wonderful chemistry together, one more time.


*This post is part of the Double Duo Feature Blogathon, co-hosted by the wonderful folks at the blogs Phyllis Loves Classic Movies and The Flapper Dame. Visit their sites for links to all of the posts from the various blogs participating in this event. Thanks for allowing me to be part of your blogathon, Phyllis and Emily!

Monday, September 11, 2017

An Appreciation: Terry (Belinda Balaski) in The Howling

Terry's determined investigation into the Colony provides the film's most heroic moments.

Oh, Terry. You were so full of spunk and wit and had such incredible hair.

Every time I watch Joe Dante's seminal 1981 werewolf film The Howling, I want to warn Terry of the dangers that lie ahead—namely Robert Picardo's unnervingly deranged serial killer-cum-werewolf Eddie Quist—and beg her to just drop the amateur sleuthing, turn around, and skedaddle out of the woods and back to L.A. Sadly, every time I watch, her fate remains the same.

Belinda Balaski turns in a remarkable performance in a supporting role as Terry, the best friend to star Dee Wallace's character, Karen White. Whenever she's on screen it's impossible to take your eyes off her. She's a dynamo, full of magnetic charisma. She breathes such tremendous life into the role and I doubt most actresses could've done any better with the part. Balaski imbues Terry with attractive qualities, like tenacity, pluckiness, and charm. Following her as she investigates the mysterious goings on at the Colony is like tagging along with a wise-cracking Nancy Drew. At one point, while under attack in a creepy cabin in the woods, she uses an ax to chop off her wolf-assailant's arm to break free. Badass. That Terry's dogged pursuit of the truth in order to protect Karen leads to her doom only further cements her appeal.

We know Terry's doomed, but this only makes us identify with and admire her even more.

Horror films are littered with the dead bodies of forgotten victims, but sometimes we find one that we care deeply about. Balaski's Terry belongs in the latter category for me. During my first viewing of The Howling as a young boy, she left such an impression on me that her murder actually emotionally devastated me. "No!" I shouted out loud. I had to stop the VHS tape for a moment to collect myself. That's rare in the pantheon on horror movie victims. Belinda Balaski's Terri is one of the best of an oft-ignored group. She'll always hold a coveted spot on my list of personal favorite horror characters, for her bravery and loyalty to her friend, her cynical smart-ass quips, and of course her glorious head of effervescent hair.*

Oh, Terry.

* Unintentionally, hair is becoming a theme when discussing horror film legends. See also: Heather Langenkamp. I suppose you don't have to have to great hair to be a scream queen, but it certainly doesn't hurt if you do.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer: Wolf

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Mike Nichols' Wolf (1994) utilizes classic werewolf tropes to segue into a smart and slyly funny exploration of the crisis of masculinity. Jack Nicholson's character Will, in the midst of a midlife crisis, begins to feel like a much younger man again after he's bitten by a wolf. Plus he meets a much younger woman played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who becomes the symbol of all that's missing from his life, and so of course he must have her. The film flummoxed audiences and critics in '94, yet it holds up magnificently today. It's beautifully filmed, with a memorably vivid Ennio Morricone score, and terrific performances by all involved, especially from Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer has a lot of fun being the object of Nicholson's affection here. She makes acting choices that help reinforce the film's harsh critique of the male ego. Throughout, Nicholson's Will and James Spader's Stewart (in a howlingly delicious turn as a creep coworker at Nicholson's publishing firm) are always mansplaining everything to Laura. Pfeiffer's reaction shots provide many of the film's most delightful moments—bemusement, disdain, and exasperation are just a few of the emotions she conveys with a piercing glance or a subtle lift of an eyebrow. Laura is the sort of role Pfeiffer's always excelled at playing, a woman primarily defined (by men) for her beauty, yet one who is also fierce, intelligent, and wields a whip-smart sense of humor.

That the film's climactic—and entertainingly ludicrous—battle between Nicholson's and Spader's wolfmen ends with Pfeiffer killing Spader in a hail of bullets is fitting. Then, the film's final scene is a zooming closeup of Pfeiffer's intensely expressive eyes, signaling a shift in the film's male-female power dynamic. Laura's put up with the men's nonsense for the last two hours, and now it's her turn to be the predator. Ultimately, the film offers a prescient commentary on the resilience of women in a patriarchal society. In a film that often straddles the line between high and low brow, Pfeiffer makes it all work with a finely drawn and nuanced performance that resonates more with each viewing.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Writing Roundup: Summer Edition

Over The Edge (1979)

Summer is almost over, and I'm ready for fall. I'm not ready for winter though, and I will miss summer, but fall is my favorite time of year, for many reasons. We're having unusually comfortable weather in the Northeast for this time of year, with temps in the 70s and nice cool overnight lows this week. All of which makes it feel even more like fall is already here. How about a nice pumpkin ale? Yes, please.

Still, I have no doubt we'll see a return to hot and humid weather before summer's officially done. But those days will become fewer and farther between as we move into September. So, get outside, enjoy the last days of summer while you can.

Speaking of summer, I contributed some articles, reviews, and interviews at other sites this summer. Here are some links, for your perusal and enjoyment. Feel free to comment here with your thoughts on any and all of these pieces.

Tim Hanley on The Many Lives of Catwoman

"What I do is not up to you": Respect and Agency in Wonder Woman

Mike Deodato's Wonder Woman in the Extreme '90s

74 Years of Bobby D - Mickey C's Top 10

Over The Edge (cult classic film review)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Barely Making a Dent: August 2017 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.

Did you know that Christy Turlington is not your average supermodel? She has run marathons, is an avid practitioner of yoga, and used to be a vegetarian? Well, that's what Wikipedia tells me, at least. Good for her. For a split second, when I first saw this photo on a random Pinterest board, I remembered her as the supermodel trapped in an ATM vestibule with Chandler Bing in that memorable early episode of Friends, but then Chandler's line instantly popped into my head, "I'm trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre!!" Silly me, confusing my '90s supermodels. I bet Goodacre doesn't hunt down rare books with the same sort of dogged determination as Turlington. Plus, Turlington was in George Michaels' "Freedom '90" video, so she straight up wins for that reason alone.

How did this turn into a battle of  '90s supermodels? My brain frightens me sometimes. I think this series is now as much about the vintage photos of books, bookstores, and readers I keep finding as it is about the books I'm reading, have read, and am about to read. Speaking of those...

Currently reading:

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. This is absolutely delightful so far. A dark comedy about the end of the world, from two writers at the peak of their witty, sardonic powers. Soon it will be an Amazon Prime miniseries starring Michael Sheen (love him) and David Tennant (my favorite doctor ever and just basically one of my favorite human beings, period). I've owned book for at least a decade, and the adaptation news prompted me to finally pull it off the shelf. My only regret is it's taken me this long to finally read it. It's fantastic so far.

Brian De Palma's Split Screen, by Douglas Keesey. Another in a long line of informative and entertaining film books from one of my favorite university presses, the University Press of Mississippi. I've always been fascinated with De Palma's films and, love him or loathe him, there's no denying his films are usually interesting, at least. The book is terrific, exploring all of the director's films and digging deep with extensive critical examinations of his sometimes troubling reliance on violence against women as a narrative device. I'm currently revisiting the films of Michelle Pfeiffer, so the chapter on Scarface and its interview snippets with Pfeiffer concerning the role of Elvira were particularly timely and enlightening.

Image courtesy of the publisher's website.

Paperbacks From Hell: The Twisted History of '70s and '80s Horror Fiction, by Grady Hendrix. This is an advance copy, so look for a review of it somewhere down the line. For now I'll say this: if you love horror (films and books) from the time period the book covers, then just pre-order it today. You're guaranteed to love it. Not only is it gorgeously designed, the sort of coffee table book you want to proudly display in your home (it's from Quirk Books, so of course it looks amazing), but it's also going to become the historical overview of the '70s-'80s horror novel boom. No other book will come close. Hendrix provides detailed synopses of the books covered (and there are hundreds and hundreds included here) along with critical analyses, and author and cover artist spotlights throughout. Hendrix has written a few horror novels himself, which I wasn't aware of previously. I've already picked up a copy of one of them (see below) and hope to read it in time for Halloween. To sum up: buy this book. Now.

Recently read:

The Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri.  I first read this about fifteen years ago. Lahiri's short stories of hurt and broken souls stuck with me over the years. A recent reread only reaffirmed my love for these stories. One of these days I'll get around to Lahiri's novels.

1984, by George Orwell. Choosing this time in history to reread Orwell's dystopian classic may not have been the best thing for my mental health. The depressing and frightening parallels between the book's story and the imperial rule of the Mango Mussolini make clear that it remains as relevant today as when it was published in 1949, or when I read it as a young, impressionable high school student in the early '90s.

Recently acquired:

More reading to add to the ever-growing stacks of books around the house. I'm hopeless.

--My Best Friend's Exorcism, by Grady Hendrix
--On Writing, by Stephen King
--The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. Le Guin
--The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin
--Bloodchild and Other Stories, by Octavia Butler

Does Christy Turlington also acquire books at a faster rate than she can read them? I hope so. I don't want to be the only weirdo with this particular affliction.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer: Married to the Mob

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Jonathan Demme's satirical tale of one woman's quest to free herself of the mafia life, Married to the Mob (1988) is an underrated gem, an absolute joy to watch, and at times riotously funny. Everything about it is subversive and smart, nothing more so than the tremendous lead performance by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer is electric as Angela de Marco, a recently widowed mob wife trying to restart her life and make a clean break from her husband's mobster ties. She uses her best physical asset as an actress—those big, expressive blue eyes, as deep and as calming as an ocean—to expose Angela's vulnerabilities early and often. It's in the way she looks sad and adrift in a room full of (crazy) people, or in how a longing glance reveals her interest in a sweet FBI agent, played wonderfully by Matthew Modine. Pardon the cliche, but Pfeiffer's eyes truly are a window into both her soul and the souls of her characters.

The film also allows Pfeiffer to show off her gift for comedy. She's the centerpiece of this madcap romp, with both the mob and law enforcement trying to control her, and she rolls with the film's manic energy with aplomb. She's hilarious here, full of New Yawk toughness and grace under fire, but all the while showing us Angela's tenderness and her very real desire to live a better life. It's a terrific film, full of life and energy, and featuring a beautifully realized and touching performance from Pfeiffer. Both the film and her work in it are worth revisiting and celebrating all over again.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It Came From the '90s: Essential Films of 1997

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

I love lists. Anyone who really knows me knows this. When I feel inspired by something, I'll drop a top five or ten list on you at any time, without warning, like that time I ranked all of the X-Men films (before Logan came out, so today that film would top the list). So I'm a sucker for lists like the one The AV Club compiled for the best movies of 1997. It reaffirmed something I felt twenty years ago, which is that 1997 was an exceptional year at the movies.

After you've read the AVC's list, come back here and I'll opine on some of the choices, probably argue with the rankings, and finally mention a few films from 1997 that didn't make the cut.

18. Grosse Point Blank. I might rank this one higher, but my love for this film is widely known. I was about to graduate from college when I saw it, and Cusack's portrait of a man faced with an uncertain future finding some strange comfort in his nostalgic past strongly resonated with me. The killer soundtrack doesn't hurt, either.

Kevin Kline in The Ice Storm.

14. The Ice Storm. Like many of the great films on this list, Ang Lee's hauntingly beautiful meditation on 1970s suburban ennui remains powerful today. In some ways, it's even more so now that we've had two more decades to further marinate in the specific sort of privileged American malaise this film chronicles. If you grew up in the 1970s through the 1990s, in other words if you are a member of Generation X, then so much of this film will be eerily familiar. From the drab and dreary late-fall setting, to the pitch-perfect period details, to a morose Tobey Maguire reading Fantastic Four on the commuter train, the film remains a deeply affecting work without being sentimental or cloying. The AV Club says it best,
The suburbs roiling with bad behavior and dirty secrets was a long-standing cliché well before The Ice Storm arrived on the scene, but Lee, Moody, and adapting screenwriter James Schamus observe every character in the pair of intertwined families with a clear, sharp vision of behavior that vacillates between soul-searching and self-destructive.
The Ice Storm ranks in my personal top five for 1997.

10. The Game. It's good to see this oft-neglected David Fincher film (released between two of his most memorable works, Se7en and Fight Club), as I've always had a soft spot for it. Still, I wouldn't rank it #10 for that year. Quibbles with rankings aside, the film's stature certainly has grown over the years, and deservedly so. It just proves that Fincher's body of work is so strong that a movie this good still probably wouldn't crack a top five list of his films.

8. L.A. Confidential. Look, #8 is absurd. This one should be in the top five for 1997, easy, maybe even top two or three. I'd rank it in the top ten of the entire decade. This reminds me, I need to revisit the film again, it's been far too long. 

6. Titanic. Look, it's been twenty years but I still haven't seen this blockbuster in its entirety. Every time I've caught portions of it on cable I've wanted to barf. At this point, I think I'm avoiding a complete viewing out of spite, and that's fine with me. I have as little interest in the film today as I did in 1997, which is to say I have no interest in it. So it's no surprise that it wouldn't make my top twenty of 1997. Sorry, Kate and Leo fans.

5. Starship Troopers. I think Paul Verhoeven is an underappreciated cinematic genius, and I've written about his films twice recently, here and here. So I won't wax rhapsodic about this movie's brilliant satire of the military-industrial-media-complex, just know this: Starship Troopers, like many of Verhoeven's films, was woefully misunderstood upon release but eventually people caught on to what he was putting down. Some works of genius are only fully appreciated with time and distance, it seems.

That scene in Boogie Nights.

4. Boogie Nights. This one was rightly celebrated in 1997 as an audaciously ambitious powerhouse ensemble piece that left you breathless throughout. While I've heard some grumblings about it being overrated since then—a friend once laughed derisively when I declared the infamously insane "Sister Christian" scene to be one of my favorites in all of film—it still more than holds up today. Don Cheadle's cowboy hat wearing stereo salesman? Brilliant. Heather Graham's iconic Rollgergirl? Heartbreaking. Burt Reynolds' porn king, Jack Horner? Hilarious yet highly disturbing. Mark Wahlberg, of whom I'd previously had a mostly low opinion, was spectacular. Boogie Nights is Paul Thomas Anderson's first true masterpiece.

1. Jackie Brown. The AVC and I are in complete agreement on the #1 film of 1997, no question about it. I remember loving this movie so passionately back then, and feeling like no one else seemed to get it like I did. I recall an awful lot of complaints from friends and critics that it was a letdown after Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. "It's too long" and "It's too slow" were the primary reasons given by these folks for disliking the film. Today it seems obvious, in a career filled with several excellent films, Jackie Brown is still Tarantino's best. So it's good to see the critics finally coming around to it these days. I have so much I could say about it that I'd like to write an entire piece about the film instead. For now I'll note that it's one of the most poignant portrayals I've ever seen of two adults navigating both life and their mutual attraction. Pam Grier and Robert Forster are magnificent, each turning in career-best work. And, of course, the film is a beautiful love letter to Grier from superfan Tarantino, which only enhances its appeal. She never had the opportunities to star in truly great films, but this one will always stand as a testament to her charisma, charm, and underrated skills as an actress.

Pam Grier owns the screen no matter the role, but especially as Jackie Brown.

There are so many more great films from 1997 not included on the AVC list, including Cop Land (featuring an all-star cast and Sylvester Stallone's tour-de-force work)Chasing Amy (Kevin Smith's sweet and sometimes naive look at love)The Fifth Element (Luc Besson's manic sci-fi romp)Devil's Advocate (Al Pacino setting the screen on fire with a ferociously fun performance as the Devil)Donne Brasco (featuring another gem of a performance by Pacino), and Lost Highway (one of David Lynch's most disturbing films, which is saying an awful lot), to name a few. Clearly, 1997 was a very good year at the multiplex, and I was fortunate to see many of these films that year. I idolized (and still do) the films of the 1970s, Hollywood's last true Golden Age. So in 1997, I recognized and appreciated the inspiration of 1970s cinema on the new movies I was then watching in the theater. It certainly was a glorious time to be a young film fanatic.

Lastly, let me say a few words about another 1997 film, Anaconda. 

J Lo: bored and a little embarrassed. Cube: cashing in. Voight: batshit crazy. 

Ahem, okay, this one shouldn't be anywhere near a top twenty (or thirty or forty or...) list, but I don't care I love it anyway. It's so outrageously bad, so gleefully absurd, that I can't help myself. For god's sake, it stars J Lo, Ice Cube, Owen Wilson, Eric Stoltz, Kari Wuhrer, and Danny Trejo! And, turning in an all-time great terrible performance, Jon Voight. I'm not sure we've seen a cast this magnificently bizarre since. Plus, let's not forget the giant killer snake. 'nuff said.