THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE (2000)

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Christopher

I can’t get enough of this movie. I think the last time I watched it was two years ago but I was ready to watch it again when Elizabeth suggested it, even if it was the fourth time. This movie has an all-star cast, mostly just John Goodman, but I will say that this is one of the best things David Spade has done in his career. The story is simple but makes you invested and the jokes rarely fall flat for me.

I will say though, the biggest downfall for me about this movie are the names. They are kind of difficult to remember and I might be a bit bitter but when I lived in San Antonio myself and a few of my friends used to play Disney Scene It and I was never able to answer any of the Emperor’s New Groove name questions. Not that I was going to win if I ever got it but it’s something I’ll always remember for whatever reason.

Elizabeth

When The Emperor’s New Groove came out, my middle school boyfriend told me something that’s stuck with me to today: never trust someone who doesn’t like The Emperor’s New Groove. It might sound extreme, but it’s actually a pretty sound philosophy.

The Emperor’s New Groove is proof that a kid’s movie doesn’t need random, dumb, “adult” humor thrown in to be good. It just has to be good. Kids and their parents will see a good movie. I feel like this is the theory that Pixar’s been working off of since they started putting out movies. Sure, there’s jokes that might go over the head of a young kid, but I saw this when I was 12 and still got all the jokes. And we just watched it again, and I’m 26, and somehow the jokes are even funnier now, even though the meanings haven’t changed.

Chris and I are also watching through Roseanne right now, which I think is what got me itching to watch The Emperor’s New Groove. As Pacha, John Goodman plays a sort of Dan Conner-esque character in that he’s a big, caring, smart, family man. He really is perfect for this role. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s by far the best thing David Spade has done post-Chris Farley, because he’s actually funny in this. And what an amazing combination of Eartha Kitt and Patrick Warburton as partners in crime. Eartha Kitt already had a funny voice that really lent itself to be used in comedy, but she really played it up here. There’s a scene toward the end, especially, where she turns into a kitten and her voice suddenly goes up in pitch and . . . I mean, it fucking kills me every time. And I’ve seen this movie over and over again in the last 14 years and it STILL gets me.

That’s true for the movie in general, though. I’m at the point where I can practically say all the lines because I’ve seen it so much, but it doesn’t faze me in the least. Anyone who thinks they’re too good for The Emperor’s New Groove for whatever reason is severely mistaken, and should give this movie a second (and a third, and probably more) chance.

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THE BIG LEBOWSKI (1998) – WITH SPECIAL GUEST POST!

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Chris’ sister Sarah came for a visit and joined us for some movies. Here’s what she had to say about The Big Lebowski.

Sarah

The last time I watched this movie was many years ago. Since then I have been part of a bowling league and was a fairly avid bowler for a few months. I have to say my appreciation for this movie has greatly increased. If you have not seen this movie, you definitely should. The Big Lebowski is along the lines of Half Baked and Pineapple Express. Humor, a little bit of violence and a large amount of dope. Entertaining for everyone the entire time!

Elizabeth

The Big Lebowski holds a very special place in my heart. Realistically, I’ve probably seen it somewhere around 25 times, starting at age 15 at summer camp. In fact, I even starred in a Big Lebowski-inspired student film made by my film class at the summer camp . . . but that’s a whole different story.

The Big Lebowski is 2 hours long, but it’s never felt that way to me. The pacing is incredible, especially considering the convoluted plot. In fact, I think The Big Lebowski is the best movie out there with that level of plot points, while still being an incredible comedy. It’s really an incredible feat.

Because of the insane plot, it’s the performances and characters that pretty much completely drive The Big Lebowski, and it’s a movie that achieves the rare goal of having every single character be funny and unique. There’s obviously The Dude (Jeff Bridges), and one of my all-time favorite minor movie characters, Jesus Quintana (John Turturro). But to me, the absolute star of The Big Lebowski is Walter Sobchak, played by John Goodman. He’s one of my favorite film characters ever. He’s an amazing mix of being an asshole, but so tragic that it turns back around to being comedic. I think Walter is John Goodman’s masterpiece of performances.

The Big Lebowski is just a movie that has to be seen, and that’s that.

Christopher

Again we run into the great John Goodman. This movie is pretty much perfect to me. It has John Goodman, Bob Dylan, and bowling! My sister recently came to town so we went to see this at the Drafthouse for one of their weekly quote-alongs. The quote-along was alright but they had a special on White Russians which made it.

This is definitely a movie that I have grown to appreciate with age. I think I saw it too young for the first time because I didn’t get most of it. Both the jokes and the story. Now I get most of the story and I think my second favorite performance might be Philip Seymour Hoffman. His facial expressions make me laugh in every scene he’s in.

ARGO (2012)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Supporting Actor – Alan Arkin
  • Best Film Editing
  • Best Original Score
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Sound Mixing
  • Best Adapted Screenplay – Chris Terrio

Elizabeth

Friday at work, Chris ran across a signature block from someone that said, “Lest We Forget: April 24, 1980.” Since neither one of us knew what that was about, I looked it up and found that it was referencing the giant failed attempt by the United States to rescue 52 Americans being held hostage in Iran, which didn’t work but left 8 American servicemen dead. I wondered if Argo was about this, because my post-World War II American history knowledge (or any American history knowledge . . .) isn’t exactly top notch. And while Argo is only about an aspect of that hostage situation, it was still interesting to get a bit of background right before we watched it.

Being an historical movie, Argo is extremely well-paced and doesn’t get too hung up on political speak. It gives just enough context and background, especially by using a really effective opening of storyboards showing the political history in Iran from about the 1950s up to the late 1970s. It not only sets a tone for the movie, by using storyboards, but sets the stage enough to where the characters’ dialogue isn’t completely bogged down in exposition.

I think it’s been talked a lot in the media, but although as a producer, Ben Affleck is nominated for Best Picture for Argo, he was noticeably left out in the Directing and Best Actor categories, which I thought was disappointing. Given how incredibly tense Argo is, Ben Affleck’s performance was appropriately subdued, which I thought really worked; it would be a lot harder to believe a flamboyant attention-getter was tasked with sneaking 6 Americans out of Iran.

Argo also perfectly employed the tricky after-the-movie exposition that ends up being cheesy in so many movies; instead of putting text on the screen, they showed photos of the characters in the movie next to the actual people they played. This touch really showed how much attention the filmmakers put into the details. There was also an interesting few sentences from Jimmy Carter at the end, talking about how important the rescue was and how hard it was to keep it a secret.

And I have to say, it was such a great moment when Ben Affleck and Matt Damon won for Best Original Screenplay for Good Will Hunting, I think it would be pretty cute for an equally celebratory Ben Affleck and George Clooney to win as producers for Argo.

Christopher

It was nice to finally watch this. The only reason I wanted to watch this was because John Goodman was cast as a minor character. And he come through as my favorite character but Argo was actually pretty good.

I guess I’m still not convinced that Ben Affleck can do good work (I think I still just see him as Gigli), but as the lead actor and director in Argo I think I now have a new image of him. I would gladly see any movie he directs. Especially if he keeps casting JG!

One thing that is bugging me and know it’s just because I don’t know how it works exactly but how is it that Alan Arkin is up for Best Supporting Actor when John Goodman had just as big a role?? It’s not even about wanting JG to get the Oscar, of course he really does need one, but how did they choose Arkin? Why not Brian Cranston? He was in it as much if not more. One day I’ll need to get some movie big shot to inform me on how the Best Supporting Actor category is picked.

FLIGHT (2012)

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ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATIONS:

  • Best Actor – Denzel Washington
  • Best Original Screenplay – John Gatins

Elizabeth

Right off the bat, here are a few problems I had with Flight: it was too long, one of the main characters was unnecessary, another character wasn’t used enough, and the main character, Will “Whip” Whitaker (Denzel Washington), was an asshole. These problems really got in the way for me, although overall I think Flight was a pretty decent movie.

If the filmmakers had cut out the character of Nicole (Kelly Reilly), I honestly think it would have been a better, cleaner movie. Nicole doesn’t really add anything to the movie; it takes a little while before it’s even clear why we’re following her character at all, and then when she does enter Whip’s life, she doesn’t really add much except to be someone for him to kiss and be mean to. Whip is an alcoholic and a drug addict, and Nicole is a recovering alcoholic and drug addict, but her presence does not change Whip or his situation at all. Change eventually comes to Whip, but it’s because of his own actions and the plane crash that the story is based on, not Nicole.

If they didn’t want to cut out Nicole’s character and they still wanted Whip to have a main companion, it should have been Harling Mays, played by John Goodman. Harling Mays is essentially a hippie version of Walter Sobchak and is therefore pretty amazing. He’s funny and his character plays off of Washington’s character so well that his lack of overall screen time seems to be a wasted opportunity.

Then there’s the issue of Whip being an asshole. It is extremely difficult for me to feel sympathy for asshole characters, even if they’re compelling. I just don’t feel like wasting my time with them. Obviously there are many exceptions to this rule, and Flight is bordering on being an exception. Whip is obviously an amazing pilot, crash landing a plane instead of just crashing it in a way that apparently no other pilot can do, saving the majority of the people on board. But the flipside to this is that Whip was drunk and high while he did this, and was continually drunk throughout the rest of the movie and while he’s being investigated for the crash. So in the end, the movie is not about a plane crash, but about addiction. But I just wasn’t super interested in it, because despite his amazing pilot skills, I found little to no other redeeming qualities in Whip’s character, which was a big obstacle for me.

Christopher

This film was very Hollywood to me. It was a solid story, it was dramatic, it was funny, it was sad, and the movie came to its inevitable end. I have to say that I really did like it a lot more than I thought I would. It was nice that it wasn’t a “did he get drunk or high before the flight or not” story. It was more about his struggle with his addictions and how far he’s willing to go to keep up his lies.

Of course the best part of the film was John Goodman. He basically played the hippie version of Walter from The Big Lebowski, a dick but still pretty funny. The other characters in this film were fine; the main actress was a little boring though. In many ways it reminded me of Silver Linings Playbook. Very basic and light but this didn’t feel like it was trying as hard.

I think Denzel Washington did a fantastic job but I couldn’t stop thinking throughout the film that he is nominated for this when John Hawkes didn’t get nominated for The Sessions. It seems weird to me but I guess I’m not cool enough for Hollywood so I might never understand.

#johngoodmanisthebestactoralive

TRUE STORIES (1986)

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Christopher

This blog has been a great deal of fun and I have tried my best to express my feelings about all the films we have watched so far accurately, but no other film has been more important to do that to me than True Stories. This film is in many ways my perfect film. It’s goofy, it’s quiet, it has good music, and it has a young John Goodman. I’m nervous writing about this film because I can see how easily people would hate it. The problem is I know I’m way too judgmental about what other people think is good so I can see many people criticizing me for liking this. I would not really recommend this for anyone but I feel that if you are a Talking Heads fan, you think Texas-themed stories are interesting, or you have to see everything John Goodman is in like me it’s definitely worth checking out.

The film is directed by David Byrne and takes place in the fictional town of Virgil, TX. The very loose premise is that David Byrne is meeting the average Joes of this town all while the town is getting ready for a town parade and night concert. So really there isn’t much story at all. I think this would be a big problem for most but for some reason it works so well for me. It’s very similar to indie comics, how there so many talented artists that don’t understand how to construct a story. I think Byrne was the same way but the music, scenery, and Goodman’s GOD-given talent make up for it, at least for me. John Goodman’s character is a single guy looking for love, a big theme throughout the film, and in some ways Byrne’s guide to meeting some of the townsfolk. Throughout the film there are Talking Heads songs all off the album True Stories. This ranges from actual Talking Heads music videos to songs performed by the actors themselves. Unfortunately all the songs aren’t incredible but there are definitely enough great ones, especially “Wild Wild Life.”

My favorite section of this movie is when Byrne wanders around a mall with John Goodman observing the townspeople and eventually comes across a mall fashion show. In this scene the song “Dream Operator” is sung by Kay Culver (Annie McEnroe), the fashion show moderator, while this bizarre fashion show runs. I think that really why I love this film; it’s just weird. Another favorite part is a short 30-second scene which shows a couple proclaiming their love, which just ends in a fart joke. I really do love the Talking Heads but I am a huge John Goodman fan and even though this film was made before I was born I would love to have been on the set while it was filmed. If I ever get a time machine this would be one of my first stops.

SEE IT!!!!!!!!! Or don’t if you think you’ll hate it…

Elizabeth

I was a little nervous about watching True Stories for a few reasons: it’s one of Chris’ favorites, features made by bands can be pretty iffy, and I generally don’t like movies without a real plot, which is what Chris told me True Stories is like. And while there isn’t much of a traditional story arc or plot in True Stories, it certainly wasn’t on the level of this-is-about-nothing as, say, Tree of Life.

While I admittedly found parts of True Stories to be a little boring, it then had scenes like my favorite, in which much of the fictional town of Virgil, Texas goes to a lip-synching club where people take turns lip synching parts of songs, in the scene’s case, The Talking Heads’ “Wild Wild Life,” which is one of my favorites. It made me wish I could live in a small town in which all the residents knew the lyrics to Talking Heads’ songs.

A youngish John Goodman is also in True Stories, and I loved how genuine he is. John Goodman can play a lot of characters really well, but my favorite is when he plays sweethearts. And the fact that he describes himself on a dating video as maintaining “a consistent panda shape,” made me love him even more.