September 16, 2006

Guilty Pleasures of the Cinema

Are there movies that you must watch every time they appear on cable, even though they aren't even good films? Even though you may own them on dvd? If so, then, like me, you have a list of cinematic guilty pleasures. Here's mine:

1. Highlander (1986) -- this one tops my list. Maybe it's the premise -- immortal swordfighters gather in New York City for their final confrontation. Maybe it's the flashbacks to 16th century Scotland. Maybe it's the music of
Queen. Or maybe it's Sean Connery playing the Spaniard Ramirez with heavy mascara and an even heavier Scottish accent. Shocking!

2. Point Break (1991) -- Keanu Reeves as football-playing, surfing FBI agent Johnny Utah, who jumps out of an airplane with no parachute to nab Patrick Swayze as dead-president-mask-wearing, surfing adrenaline junkie Bodhi? Vaya con Dios, dude.

3. Encino Man (1992) -- Brendan Fraser as dethawed Stone-Ager Linkovitch Chumovsky is adopted by Stoned-Agers Pauly Shore and Sean Astin. It's worth watching for the many Pauly-isms (sample: "Well, he's got the buff spikes chillin' on top of his melon, obviously, right?, - dude, he's checking her cheeks! oh oh! - he's got the serious beak, and his own personal holding company full of fundage, bro, that he weases off of ma... ma..."). Fraser's earnest, wide-eyed portrayal as Link is icing on the cake.

4. Red Dawn (1984) -- The Russians and the Cubans nuke and then invade the American heartland, and it's up to Patrick Swayze (appearance #2) and fellow brat-packers Charlie Sheen, Lea Thompson, C. Thomas Howell and Jennifer Grey to stop them. I's right-wing jingoism at its corniest. Go Wolverines!

5. The Fifth Element (1997) -- Bruce Willis again effectively plays the Regular Guy inadvertently caught up in larger-than-life events, as his cab-driving Korben Dallas is called on to help save the world. Milla Jovovich as the alien Leeloo demonstrates that she should have stuck to modeling. Anything that comes out of her mouth is simply too annoying to hear. Fortunately, she is often scantily clad, thus the mute button comes in very handy. Features Chris Tucker in his breakout performance as effeminate tv host Ruby Rhod.

6. Waterworld (1995) -- the king of all clunkers. In the apocalyptic future, the ice caps have melted, the earth is covered in water, and thus The Road Warrior needs to be remade on boats. Like a slo-mo car accident, it's truly horrendous, yet I must stop to watch. Is it Dennis Hopper and his one eye? Is it Jeanne Tripplehorn and her lazy eye? Is it Kevin Costner and his precise sailing? Or is it Tina Majorino as the most annoying girl with a map of dry land tattooed on her back ever? It's a mystery to me.

7. Armageddon (1998) -- Bruce Willis (appearance #2) leads a team of oil-drilling "rockhounds" on a mission to blow up an asteroid that is headed for earth. Ben Affleck proves once again that, as an actor, he isn't fit to wash Matt Damon's socks. However, a solid team of supporting actors, including Steve Buscemi, Will Patton and Billy Bob Thornton carry the film to its predictable conclusion, with many funny moments along the way. My favorite is the list of favors that the rockhounds extract from Billy Bob in exchange for volunteering on their deadly mission. Liv Tyler as Bruce's daughter Grace is all red lips and blue-eyed tears.

8. Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) -- this film might have qualified as a genuine rather than a guilty pleasure, if not for the presence of Keanu Reeves (appearance #2) as Jonathan Harker. Keanu cannot exorcise Ted Logan of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure from any character he plays, and Ted does not belong in a 19th century waistcoat. Anthony Hopkins as Professor Van Helsing and Sadie Frost as the amorous Lucy also turn in laughably overwrought performances, raising the suspicion that director Francis Ford Coppola told his actors to turn on the afterburners. The only character for whom this works is Gary Oldman, whose slightly campy, lovesick Count Dracula is one of the most memorable movie characters in decades. Apparently Winona Ryder did not get the memo. Her Mina is sweet and understated compared to her fellow actors.

9. Roger Moore as James Bond -- this includes Live and Let Die (1973), The Man With the Golden Gun (1974), Moonraker (1979), The Spy Who Loved Me (1977), For Your Eyes Only (1981), Octopussy (1983), and A View to a Kill (1985). Of course, the James Bond franchise is beloved by millions, and the Roger Moore bond movies contain numerous exquisitely entertaining moments, which makes them guilty pleasures. Who can forget Herve Villechaize as Knick-Knack in The Man With the Golden Gun, calling for "Mitheur Thcaramanga" and "Mitheur Bond"? Moreover, for children of the 1970s, Roger Moore is the quintessential bond. However, Moore introduced high campiness to the character, an unforgivable sin for anyone who has read the original James Bond books by Ian Fleming. Even worse, Moore's acting is awful. His only move is the painfully executed double-take. He sees something, turns away slightly, then turns back in surprise. Watch as Moore does this over and over, and I promise you that you will never see his James Bond movies in the same light again.

1o. (tie) The Poseidon Adventure (1972)/Earthquake (1974)/The Towering Inferno (1974) -- these films defined the 1970s as the decade of the Disaster Movie. I find them just as interesting for their exploitative sexism and racism, which must have been de rigeur at the time but which, over 30 years later, are quite jarring. A couple of examples that come to mind are Victoria Principal's yellow t-shirt in Earthquake (that's a couple of examples right there) and Gene Hackman's instructions to various women to disrobe in order to climb to safety in The Poseidon Adventure (as well as the ensuing gratuitous shots of Stella Stevens taken from below as she climbs a ladder). Nevertheless, the all-star casts, what-if premises and state-of-the-art (at the time) special effects make these highly entertaining guilty pleasures.

Honorable Mention:

1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
2. Natural Born Killers
3. American Psycho
4. Tommy Boy
5. Hot Shots Part Deux
6. Son-in-Law

7. Cape Fear (remake)

Well, that's my list. What's yours?


At 7:31 AM, Blogger Aileen said...

OK- I'll admit guilty pleasure is any movie that appeals to the teenage girl in me. That means if it's about dancing, cheerleading, becoming famous, or taking the boy away from the popular girl at school...I'm there! Off the top my head my faves in this genre are:

1. Bring it On!
2. Mean Girls
3. Save the Last Dance
4. Fame
5. John Tucker must die

I'm gonna go bury my head now...:)


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